Culture and Ideology in Qing Economic History

Talk by Taisu Zhang, Yale Law School

Thursday, November 30, 2017
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Bunche Hall 10383

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Over the past several decades, research on Qing economic history has moved away from Weberian cultural theories towards a more materialistic or institutional mode of analysis. Much of this is obviously for the better: historians have decisively debunked a number of old myths about the irrationality of Chinese economic behavior, both at the local level and at the center of power. Nonetheless, the pendulum may have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction, to the point where cultural and ideological analysis has become nearly invisible. This lecture discusses whether there is still room to bring these "soft factors" back to the table, and how that might be most effectively achieved. Insofar as scholars continue to believe that certain legal and political institutions--in particular, property rights and fiscal policy--were economically significant, they probably served as a proxy through which social culture and political ideology influenced the trajectory of Qing economic development.

Taisu Zhang is an Associate Professor of Law at Yale Law School and works on comparative legal history—specifically, economic institutions in modern China and early modern Western Europe—comparative law, property law, and contemporary Chinese Law. His first book, The Laws and Economics of Confucianism: Kinship and Property in Pre-Industrial China and England, is forthcoming at Cambridge University Press. In dissertation form, it was the recipient of Yale University’s Arthur and Mary Wright Dissertation Prize and the American Society for Legal History’s Kathryn T. Preyer Award. A second book, The Ideological Foundations of the Qing Fiscal State, is in progress. He has also published a number of articles and essays in academic journals and popular outlets.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies