A clip from the “Royaume d’ Annan comprenant les Royaumes de Tumkin et de la Cocinchine / Designé par les Peres de la Compagnie de Iesus; I. Somer sculp. - 1600-1699”, from the La Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The following is a reading list related to a long undertaking with my two co-authors a, Melissa Dell (Harvard) and Pablo Querubin (NYU), where we explore the historic roots of economic divergence in Asia. Our paper, “State Capacity, Local Governance, and Economic Development in Vietnam” examines the role of historic state institutions in shaping the different developmental trajectories of Northeast and Southeast Asia.
We take Vietnam as a parable for the larger Asian experience: After independence from China, Vietnam (Dai Viet), much like Korea, consciously adopted a the modern Chinese state, complete with centralized administration and a competitive bureaucracy. On the other hand, large parts of Southern Vietnam were controlled by Cambodia (the Khmer Kingdom), which, like many Southeast Asian states, was far less centralized than their Sinicized neighbors. Using historic boundaries as a divide between these two institutional worlds, we use a regression discontinuity design to examine how the different patterns of early state formation influenced long-run village-level development.
Understandably, the history of Asian political development isn’t known to many economists. However, the history of European state capacity has influenced a wave of research in the political economy of development. Classic works by eminent historians like Charles Tilly or Perry Anderson have become commonplace, informing the way economists explore the role of state history and economic development.
Our paper on state capacity appeals to a rich literature on Asia – one that may be less well known to economists. Since my co-authors and I spent much time delving into these works, much of which can’t fully be discussed in the scope of an empirical economics paper, I wanted to share some of these readings on Asian formation in Asia, emphasizing Vietnam.
A great starting point for understand the patterns of long-run Asian state formation would be Victor Lierberman’s wonderful two volume history, Strange Parallels. Lieberman synthesizes a massive literature on political development, comparing Asian state history to that of Europe and Eurasia.
The Chinese state was surprisingly modern relative to its contemporaries and its institutions were copied across Asia. Lost Modernities by Woodside is a great synopsis of the common bureaucratic state features that distinguished the experience of East Asian states from elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Building on the scholarship of George Cœdès, a rich literature has explored the shared characteristics of early Southeast Asian polities and the influence of Indian civilization on the region. O.W. Wolter’s work is a fantastic tour of Southeast Asian pre-colonial states, motivating the concept of mandala kingdoms to describe the organization of these discordant polities.
From Alexander Woodside’s famous 1971 thesis, a number of works have documented the ways in which early Vietnamese leaders adapted Chinese state institutions, emphasizing the role of elite bureaucratic norms.
The Vietnamese village has long been viewed as the fundamental unit of administration. Our paper hones in on how the central Dai Viet state projected power down to the village level, shaping the scope of village development for centuries.
Another strand of scholarship has studied the way in which–with the help of a modern state apparatus–the Vietnamese expanded their territorial administration southward into the Mekong.
Many thanks to the helpful discussion and input for the Vietnamese Studies Group listserv and my co-authors.
14 Feb 2016