This book is written by two Dutch experts in colonial expansion. They have applied modern concepts like economic history, networks, and the geographic...moreThis book is written by two Dutch experts in colonial expansion. They have applied modern concepts like economic history, networks, and the geographical and biological determinism of Jared Diamond to the world in the 17th and 18th century, before Britain became the world's dominant power. These modern concepts make it easier to accept some of the authors' conclusions compared to books of an earlier generation: we "recognise" this book. The book would have been even better if the authors had elaborated more on quite a few subjects. Still it seems a book that is worth reading even for those not specifically interested in Dutch history. It covers much of the globe from Brazil to Persia, paying least attention to Europe.(less)
In the triangle between Surabaya, Bali and Malang lies Krajan, a village consisting of various hamlets inhabited by Madurese families. Thirty percent...moreIn the triangle between Surabaya, Bali and Malang lies Krajan, a village consisting of various hamlets inhabited by Madurese families. Thirty percent of the population is so poor that they consider a radio a luxury they may need to sell in times of economic woes. Quite a lot of labour is still done in kind, with one day of toiling the land being worth 5 kilos of rice, which is actually a good hedge against the ever depreciating Indonesian rupiah. The selamatan, a ritual meal to appease the spirits, is as much a necessity as it is a burden to the people who have to give it, and poor people have relatively lower benefits as they are not invited that often to other people’s selamatans.
In his well-written PhD-dissertation, Mr. Nooteboom described the lives of the people of Krajan and how they have organised their social security. Indonesian city people often have romantic ideas about the various forms of mutual help practiced in the villages, but Mr. Nooteboom tested how well these strategies work in reality. The author explains that people have different styles to organise their social security, with different results depending on the circumstances. Some people even have deliberately risky lifestyles that include gambling (practiced by most men as a pastime, with only a few being addicted), adultery (practiced by about 50 % of the men and 30 % of the women), investment risk (planting excess amounts of cash crops instead of a mixture including products for private consumption), looking for work outside the village area (not that often done and not always beneficial to those who try), or transmigrating to Borneo (rarely an economic success story). All strategies only had a limited success rate, and often led to social tensions and lots of gossip. SPOILER ALERT: those who benefited most were those who concentrated on free rides and limited contributions to other people’s social security.
Mr. Nooteboom also checked how the various government social security programmes worked in the aftermath of the rupiah crisis in 1998. Unsurprisingly, those who benefited most were those with the best connections to village leaders, with the most needy getting little, because those giving help were busier meeting their bosses’ targets than helping the needy. Luckily, the poorest still benefited indirectly from lower prices in the markets.
Some of Mr. Nooteboom’s conclusions are pretty standard for anyone who studied micro-economics. I consider that the only minus point of this dissertation.
Overall a good read for anybody interested in life in rural Java at the start of the 21st century or in understanding how the effect of help depends upon people’s lifestyles. What is best, you can download this dissertation for free from the author’s homepage at http://home.medewerker.uva.nl/g.noote... If you are just interested in his description of risky behaviour, you can find that chapter in a separate article there. (less)