The History of Government from the Earliest Times - Vol. 3

The History of Government from the Earliest Times - Vol. 3

The History of Government from the Earliest Times - Vol. 3

The History of Government from the Earliest Times - Vol. 3

Synopsis

No one has hitherto had the breadth of imagination and intellectual boldness to describe and analyse government throughout recorded history and throughout the world. This unique study of government is the culmination of the work of the late S. E. Finer, one of the leading political scientists of the twentieth century. Ranging over 5,000 years, from the Sumerian city state to the modern European nation state, five themes emerge: state-building, military formats, belief systems, social stratification, and timespan. The three volumes examine both representative and exceptional polities, and focus on political elites of different types. Empires, Monarchies, and the Modern State (Books Four and Five) opens with Tokugawa Japan and thence reviews the evidence of Ch'ing, Ottoman, and Mughal Empires, before turning to facets of the re-creation, `modernization', and transplantation of the European state model. It concludes with the synoptic review of `Pathways to the Modern State'. Professor Finer's cogent descriptive analysis offers both an invaluable reference resource and an exhilarating journey across time and space.

Excerpt

Japan is a late-comer in the history of government. Its history as a state only really begins with the Taika reforms of ad 645. Even so, it is of but limited interest to the historian of government until 1600, the year when the warlord Ieyasu Tokugawa defeated all his baronial rivals in the great Battle of Sekigahara. Up to that point Japan's constitutional history had been a premature attempt at imperial centralization à la T'ang, followed by a progressive and cumulative morcelization of authority and power, an interminable Wars of the Roses fought by armoured knights of rival houses: what Milton would have called the wars of the kites and the crows. the constitutional significance of the early Imperial (Nara and Heian) period is that it explains the nature of the subsequent feudal anarchy, which in turn is significant in that the Tokugawa Shogunate was (originally at any rate) little else but anarchy institutionalized.

The outcome is something unlike anything we have so far described in Asia, but not at all unlike what we have already described for medieval Europe; and this in itself is a cause for curiosity. Here we have something like the late medieval regime in England or France at the time of so-called 'bastard feudalism', but frozen in that mould for two-and-a-half centuries. Yet it is out of the ordinary, not like anything we have come across so far. Thus its feudal structure, though it resembles the European, was amalgamated with a set of social values which are characteristically East Asian, indeed, in most particulars, Sinic, for example, institutionalized inequality, no individual rights, no rule of law, and a duty of unquestioning obedience. the resultant regime was a mosaic of despotisms held together and con-

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