The Functional Role of Balinese Water Temples: A Response to Critics

Research paper by J. Stephen Lansing, Thérèse A. de Vet

Indexed on: 01 May '12Published on: 01 May '12Published in: Human Ecology


In earlier publications we have proposed a model to explain the functional role of water temple networks in the agro-ecology of wet rice irrigation on the island of Bali. We argued that the key ecological effects of temple networks are best understood as emergent properties of a complex adaptive system. This argument implies that important aspects of the temple system are largely opaque from the perspective of conventional social science. We proposed that the Green Revolution created a real-world test of our model, by effectively removing the temple networks from their functional role in ecological management. The idea that water temple networks represent a hitherto-unknown kind of institution has been met with appropriate skepticism by other social scientists, who have run a fine-toothed comb through our evidence. Here we evaluate their critiques.