Taisu ZhangFeb 27, 2018
The Laws and Economics of Confucianism
Kinship and Property in Preindustrial China and England
Cambridge University Press 2017
Taisu Zhang ties together cultural history, legal history, and institutional economics in The Laws and Economics of Confucianism: Kinship and Property in Pre-Industrial China and England (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and offers a novel argument as to why Chinese and English pre-industrial economic development went down different paths. Late Imperial and Republican China (1860-1949) was dominated of Neo-Confucian social hierarchies, under which advanced age and generational seniority were the primary determinants of sociopolitical status. This allowed many poor but senior individuals to possess status and political authority highly disproportionate to their wealth. In comparison, in the more individualistic early modern England (1500-1700) landed wealth was a fairly strict prerequisite for high status and authority. This essentially excluded low-income individuals from secular positions of prestige and leadership. Zhang argues that this social difference had major consequences for property institutions and agricultural production.