Economic development generally implies that traditional egalitarian norms and beliefs are replaced by modern individualistic values. Particularly when opportunities for advancement are unequally presented to people, this transformation may be accompanied by polarization and violent conflict. We illustrate this point by describing the processes of land privatization in Sub-Saharan Africa and then present two models that capture some salient aspects of this transformation in rural communities, including the possibility of polarization. We find that the support of egalitarian norms is notably strong when new opportunities are available for only a few people or when the community is socially unstable. Moreover, in unstable communities, polarization is strongest when the group with the most lucrative opportunities comprises half the population.