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Decision processes in rural development Hale, Sylvia Marion

Abstract

This thesis develops a general theory of choice behaviour which is applied to the analysis of response to development programmes in rural India. The theory focuses on the social processes which structure perceived choice parameters for individuals differentially situated within the village communities. It examines those mechanisms which influence the range of alternatives likely to be considered, appreciation of their varied consequences, or the likely outcome of new proposals, and their perceived and actual feasibility. A basic concept in the theory is "power", defined here as "the ability to influence the structuring of choice parameters of others", through control over critical mechanisms of information flow, persuasion, and access to input facilities. Ten hypotheses are derived from the basic theoretical axiom of rational action, concerned with how such control will be exercised, and the implications which this has for the scope of choices open to others. Rural development programmes in India provide the substantive context for testing the utility of these hypotheses. These programmes are directly concerned with promoting innovation among villagers, and they incorporate a wide range of specific choices. The theory predicts that within the highly stratified village communities, first hand access to new information, and further diffusion at second hand, will be concentrated among members of the same faction and* social stratum as initially privileged informants. Vertical diffusion of information across strata will be minimal, and its content strongly biased by the particular interests of initial informants. The theory further predicts that evaluation of the merits of any new proposals will be strongly influenced by the character of relations between informant and recipients. As information flows vertically between strata, its persuasive impact will decline, as a function of relatively poorer quality information, the extent of tensions and conflicting interests between strata, and perceived economic disparities. Lastly, the theory predicts that access to any input facilities will be concentrated among members of the same faction and social stratum as those persons responsible for their distribution. Access by members of other strata will decline with increasing social distance, and their preferences are progressively less likely to be considered in the investment of resources for community projects. The study succeeds in demonstrating the utility of these hypotheses in predicting response to development projects within the five village communities.

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