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Custom, Capitalism, and the State: The Origins of Insecure Land Tenure in West Africa

Kathryn Firmin-Sellers
Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE) / Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft
Vol. 156, No. 3 (September 2000), pp. 513-530
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40752227
Page Count: 18
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Custom, Capitalism, and the State: The Origins of Insecure Land Tenure in West Africa
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Abstract

This paper invokes foundational property rights theories to explain the persistence of insecure tenure in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. The case studies affirm the theories' core propositions: when relative factor prices change, actors seek more narrowly defined rights to newly valued resources. Their efforts may be blocked by costly decision-making rules, distributional conflict, or the inability to credibly commit to the new rights. This paper also highlights the way in which culture – the beliefs, rituals, and practices that promote a community's shared understanding or mode of behavior – circumscribes actors' choice sets, and, thus, influences the path of institutional change.

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