LI - In this illuminating book, historian Huaiyin Li traces...

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In this illuminating book, historian Huaiyin Li traces the political economy and social dynamics of Qin village in Jiangsu province in China over 60 years, from the start of the Communist era to the present. As he does so, he challenges conventional notions about state-society relations, state power, and economic development in China. Of particular interest to political scientists and economists should be his appreciation of how social factors and multilevel influences affect how formal institutions operate. He argues that, because these have not been adequately appreciated, scholars have often misunderstood the impact of formal institutional shifts; and he puts forth a modified portrait of change and continuity between the socialist era (from the 1950s to 1970s) and the subsequent reform era in China. Beyond this overarching point, Li's book makes several more specific arguments. Some of these might valuably inform comparative political science studies of power relations, participation and governance, predation, and development in an authoritarian state. On power relations, Li argues against the common view that villagers were subservient and powerless under an oppressive socialist state, instead showing how they continually resisted the state using traditional and modern forms. Regarding governance, Li portrays the state as encouraging political awareness and oversight by the public, but using tools that are often inadequate and/or uninteresting to villagers. Complicating a simple view of the state as either predatory or developmental, Li argues that the state excessively extracted from rural areas like Qin village at the same time that it modernized the rural economy. Regarding development, Li argues that rural economic growth in the reform era was driven less by the much-emphasized introduction of market incentives than by the gradual policy shift towards serving, rather than overextracting from, rural areas.
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This note was uploaded on 08/27/2011 for the course HIS 340M taught by Professor Li during the Summer '11 term at University of Texas.

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LI - In this illuminating book, historian Huaiyin Li traces...

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