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Published November 2019 | public
Journal Article

The Law and Economics of Confucianism [Book Review]


Taisu Zhang's first book offers a new and insightful perspective on a topic that many scholars have debated in the last generation: the reasons for the Great Divergence of the economic trajectories of China and England. Zhang's contribution brings together several long-standing theses to offer a novel proposal: China's failure to develop an industrial economy in the eighteenth century was the result of its more equitable property distribution. He makes this argument even more provocative by adding that the most fundamental cause of the historical differences between the economies of England and China must ultimately be attributed not to any particular institution (the most common medium of comparative history today), but rather to culture. Zhang directly states that the existing "noncultural divergence theories. . . are simply logically incomplete" (6). If this ambitious claim gives some readers initial pause, they will be rewarded with a novel perspective if they forge ahead. For in pressing such a large thesis, the author has synthesized a wide range of arguments into a single framework to provide scholars of legal development, economic history, and Chinese history alike with a new perspective on the developmental trajectory of the late empire.

Additional Information

© 2019 The American Society for Legal History, Inc. Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 November 2019. Book review of: Taisu Zhang, The Law and Economics of Confucianism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. 319. $116.00 hardcover (ISBN 9781107141117).

Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 19, 2023