What are the political consequences of disruptive technological change? In this book, I argue that technological change, as a form of “creative destruction”, can weaken entrenched political elites and strengthen new groups. When established parties fail to adapt because of the organizational entrenchment of pre-existing party elites, they collapse.
This argument is advanced in the context of India’s green revolution, a period of rapid technological change in agriculture occurring between the 1960s and 1980s. Drawing on historical data on the spread of high-yielding variety crops, as well as comparative case studies of Indian states based on archival and historical research, I show how the new crop technology played a pivotal role in the rise of agrarian opposition parties and the decline of the dominant Congress party.
The green revolution was most damaging to the Congress party in regions in which it was historically most deeply entrenched. In these areas, party elites, in order to protect their rents, blocked the incorporation of rising rural and cultivating caste groups into the party, encouraging their defection to agrarian opposition parties. This contributed to a curious long-run reversal of fortune; the Congress party is today weakest in regions of India that were party strongholds of the independence movement.
The Indian case holds broader lessons, highlighting the importance of technological change and organizational incapacity to adapt as key variables contributing to political turnover and, in some cases, democratization. Read an article published in the APSR based on the book project here and a short blurb contribution to the Indian Keywords Project here.