Peregrine, P. N.

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine the political participation in pre-Columbian societies to determine empirically if greater local participation in political decision-making provides greater resilience to natural disasters. Design/methodology/approach - A cross-cultural analysis of 21 archeologically known societies bracketing the period 100 years prior to and 100 years following 15 catastrophic natural disasters is conducted to identify relationships between political participation and long-term societal resilience. Findings - Societies which encourage greater political participation at multiple levels of hierarchy show greater resilience in population, regional organization and communal ritual than societies that restrict political participation. Research limitations/implications - The sample employed is small and non-random, and the data are coarse-grained, thus the results must be taken cautiously. However, because the use of archeological information allows for both empirical evaluation of presumed causal relationships and the examination of societies across a range of scales and degrees of political integration, the flaws in the sample and data may be less important than the unique insights provided through the broad and diachronic perspective of archeology. Practical implications - The paper's findings are consistent with current literature on societal resilience and disaster management, specifically those that emphasize local empowerment and the building of social capital as means to increase resilience, and thus serve as an empirical confirmation of those approaches. Originality/value - This paper is unique undertaking a systematic cross-cultural analysis of archeological data in order to empirically test whether greater political participation increases long-term societal resilience.