AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 384

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Session 384: Rethinking Asian Capitalisms and Development Regimes (I)

Organizer and Chair: Jean-Luc Maurer, Independent Scholar, Switzerland

The main objective of the Europe-Asia Working Group of the EADI is to analyze the current and future prospects of European and Asian capitalisms, looking at the development regimes of each region and their growing interdependence, but also at the possible implications of this interdependence in terms of global regulations. The set of two panel proposals builds on the evidence that capitalist systems do not, as predicted by many, converge: While globalization generates increasing interdependence, integration and interaction among societies and economies, a great variety of production structures, socio-economic relations and patterns of resource distribution co-exist and persist, both in the developed and the developing world, and the diversity of socio-economic organization is a major trait of contemporary market economies. This evidence raises several questions: Why does divergence occur? How does it relate to the implementation of global systems of control and regulation? How does it impact on the trajectories of change and on the economic development of single countries? The first panel will highlight a number of factors that have shaped the development regimes of selected Asian countries. It therefore aims at stimulating the discussion about the ‘models’ that have been adopted and adapted by single countries or sub-regions, and on the conditions that have led to their adoption or their rejection.

Fragile States, Stable Institutions—Dynastic Cycle in the Chinese History
Gang Wang, University of Chicago, USA

While dynastic cycle is an important political phenomenon in the Chinese history, there are very few systematic theories have been raised to explain it. Why is there a dynastic cycle in the Chinese history from the Qin dynasty (221 B.C) to the Qing dynasty (A.D. 1911)? From comparative perspective, why did some countries prefer a feudal monarchy while others chose a centralization of power in the pre modern world? In this paper, I will employ a formal model to argue that the Central Autocratic System (CAS) lasted for over 2000 years shapes the pattern of political stability of the Chinese states and the consistence of non-democratic regime in the Chinese history. My model predicts two important conclusions which can be used to explain dynastic cycle in the Chinese history. First, in a Central Autocratic System, a ruler always has difficulties in monitoring local officials’ behavior and thus various social conflicts rooted in CAS will break down the dynasty. Second, in the pre modern world, a ruler generally would prefer a feudal monarchy if his country size is relatively small and a centralization of power if his country size is very large. Combining these two conclusions, we will be able to understand why a Chinese dynasty cannot last for a long time but all the rulers would still prefer the Central Autocratic System.

Policy Convergence and Opposition to Reforms in China and India
Ishan Joshi, Cornell University, USA

Despite having two very different political systems, both China and India have achieved a significant amount of regulatory success in their respective programs of economic liberalization and reform (begun in China in 1979 and in India in 1991). These wholesale changes to the previously autarkic nature of their domestic regulatory regimes have been managed with compliance from all major organized interests, both within the government and across civil society. This paper attempts to explain the similar experience of both nations in this regard, focusing on the sequencing of reforms, the type of rhetoric used to justify the changes and the manner in which political opposition was ‘managed’. This is an interesting question to explore, since despite the formal differences in these two political regimes, a convergence of regulatory approaches is apparent in the course of economic liberalization and their interface(s) with the global economy.

Growth, Reforms and Inequality: India and China since the 1980s
Sanjay Ruparelia, New School, USA

The rapid increase in economic inequality in India and China, in a period of surging aggregate growth and their increasingly critical influence in shaping the global political economy, is a crucial feature in Asia’s capitalist development. Both India and China have witnessed remarkable transformations in the wake of concerted neo-liberal reforms, especially since the late 1980s, which have unleashed aggregate growth, encouraged structural diversification and shifted the balance of power between and amongst state institutions and social forces in their respective political economies. Yet, these increasing disparities and inequalities witnessed by the two countries have caused rising social discontent, political opposition and increasingly violent protest. The phenomenon of growing economic inequality amidst national economic booms has compelled both national governments to introduce a variety of political, institutional and policy measures. This paper seeks to describe, explain and assess these world significant trends. The first section examines trends in patterns of income and consumption in India and China since the late 1980s based on new statistical data that allows inter-country comparison, something that has been largely neglected in studies of inequality in India and China to date. The second section considers possible rival explanations for these patterns by assessing the relative merit of leading economic, political and sociological theories. The last section examines the range of responses by New Delhi and Beijing to these challenges, assesses the impact of their different political regimes and considers what might be learned from their respective experiences.

Playing the aid game: representation and agency in the Nepalese development regime of the 1960s
Sara Elmer, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Throughout the past sixty years, Nepal has been highly exposed to development planning and foreign aid. Despite claims of Nepal suffering from an overdose of aid, the idea of planned development is today as vital as ever and finds its manifestation in an extensive and self-sustaining development sector. To better understand the pervasiveness of the development regime, my paper suggests going beyond the poststructuralist critique of development as a Western discourse and asking for the historical significance of the Nepalese variation of the development discourse in general and the role of the local bureaucracy in particular. Through the case study of the 1967 launched ‘Back-to-the-Village National Campaign’ I will show how the political elites not simply adopted and reproduced alien definitions of development, but knew how to play the aid game and re-defined its meanings according to their own interests. During the 1960s and 70s, development not only became an integral, ideological force in the nation building process but also a concrete means to expand state control over rural areas. However, programs like the ‘Back-to-the-Village’ campaign never really reached the targeted ‘rural poor’, but, as I argue, strengthened the position of the newly rising, elite based ‘caste’ of development experts and bureaucrats. Without denying the discursive power of the Western development endeavor or neglecting the international dimension of development policy, the paper stresses on the crucial role of this development caste in shaping the omnipresent aid regime in today’s Nepal.

Historical antecedents of the capitalist narrative on tribal development: Contributions from Indian literatures
Giorgio Milanetti, University of Rome, Italy

Tribal development in India has been institutionally sanctioned by the combination of various articles and schedules of Indian Constitution (1950), which states that the tribes are entitled to development benefits, provided they are ‘scheduled’. On this basis, tribal development has structurally evolved into a ‘narrative’, whose capitalist nature is attested by its emphasis on labor, means of production and income, as well as by the exploitation of natural and human resources and the social stratification it engenders. This process has been variously criticized, challenged and resisted, by almost as many actors as those who have been sustaining it and/or taking advantages from it. At the same time, it has been studied by a large number of scholars, in India and abroad, to the point that a whole ‘narrative on tribal development narrative’ has been thriving till now. The present contribution, while not discussing the social, economic, and political implications of this process, tries to put into perspective a few key elements of that narrative – with a special regard for the dynamics of dominance and de-legitimization it implicitly contains – with other narratives dealing with the tribal communities of India as assumedly transmitted by some selected texts taken from Indian literatures. The aim is to demonstrate, first, that development is but another word for a millenarian strategy of subjugation and dominance; and secondly that development is a constituent feature of capitalism in a democratic political context.