AS: As long-time readers of this blog will know, I’m very interesting in using Capitalist Peace Theory as a lens for understanding history. Capitalist Peace Theory holds commercial interdependence between nations promotes peace. I applied this theory in a recent paper in the journal Enterprise and Society. That paper looked at the role of entrepreneurs in promoting peace between three nations that were led, in the main, by individuals of the same ethnic origin and religion (the US, the UK, and Canada in the era of the Civil War).
Saumitra Jha‘s excellent paper ‘Unfinished Business’: Historic Complementarities, Political Competition and Ethnic Violence in Gujarat‘ examines parallel issues but within the context of a single Indian state. It was published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. August 2014, Vol. 104, Pages 18-36
Here is the abstract:
I examine how the historical legacies of inter-ethnic complementarity and competition interact with contemporary electoral competition in shaping patterns of ethnic violence. Using local comparisons within Gujarat, a single Indian state known for both its non-violent local traditions and for widespread ethnic pogroms in 2002, I provide evidence that where political competition was focused upon towns where ethnic groups have historically competed, there was a rise in the propensity for ethnic rioting and increased electoral support for the incumbent party complicit in the violence. However, where political competition was focused in towns that historically enjoyed inter-ethnic complementarities, there were fewer ethnic riots, and these towns also voted against the incumbent. These historic legacies proved to be important predictors of the identity of the winner even in very close electoral races. I argue that these results reflect the role local inter-ethnic economic relations can play in altering the nature and the benefits of political campaigns that encourage ethnic violence.
It seems to be that Jha’s paper could be used to help with the theoretical framing of qualitative business-historical research on inter-ethnic trade in this region, or indeed many parts of the world. By taking a close look at any surviving documents produced by firms in the area, we could examine the role of business in promoting ethnic harmony. Someone needs to apply this paradigm to studying the business history of my native Canada, a country that has been characterized by very peaceful relations between its main ethno-linguistic groups and extensive commercial interaction between members of these groups, as in the case of the Montreal-based fur trade after 1760.