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Principals and Agents, Colonialists and Company Men: The Decay of Colonial Control in the Dutch East Indies

Julia Adams
American Sociological Review
Vol. 61, No. 1 (Feb., 1996), pp. 12-28
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096404
Page Count: 17
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Principals and Agents, Colonialists and Company Men: The Decay of Colonial Control in the Dutch East Indies
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Abstract

Patrimonial states and their chartered East India companies propelled the first wave of European colonialism in Asia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The metropolitan principals of these organizations faced special problems in monitoring and controlling their own colonial agents. Focusing primarily on the Dutch United East Indies Company and secondarily on its English counterpart, I argue that the network structure of each organization affected the degree to which relationships between patrimonial principals and their agents could serve as a disciplinary device. Dutch decline was imminent when alternative opportunities for private gain, available via the ascending English East India Company, allowed Dutch colonial servants to evade their own patrimonial chain and encouraged its organizational breakdown. Features of network structure determined whether colonial agents saw better alternatives to the official patrimonial hierarchy, when they could act on them, and whether principals could respond.

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