The politics of development: Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Asia

The politics of development: Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Asia

The politics of development: Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Asia

The politics of development: Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Asia

Excerpt

ASIA CAME TO the Industrial Revolution late, and for this reason its modern history lies almost wholly within the twentieth century. The very fact that we use terms like "peasant," "artisan," and "merchant" (not "entrepreneur") to describe the primary classes in the early part of this century testifies to the nature of Asian societies and their stage of economic development.

One can argue over whether there was a distinctive Asian mode of production, but it cannot be doubted that until recently most Asian cultures rested on an economic foundation of intensive agriculture. In the political realm, the nation- state did not yet exist, at least in a form recognizable today, and the concept of sovereignty--even that of nationalism-- remained for the future. However sophisticated the institutions of governance, moreover, politics in the independent portions of Asia was in essence highly personalized, via some combination of officialdom--civil or military--and a supreme ruler, normally a monarch. Statutes and custom combined to provide guidelines, but basically people were governed by men, not by law. At the village or district level, this generally meant rule by elders for whom tradition set firm perimeters but whose wisdom or lack thereof could be decisive. The social order differed from one society to another . . .

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