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This book examines the fundamental issue of how citizens get government officials to provide them with the roads, schools, and other public services they need by studying communities in rural China. In authoritarian and transitional systems, formal institutions for holding government officials accountable are often weak. The answer, Lily L. Tsai found, lies in a community's social institutions. Even when formal democratic and bureaucratic institutions of accountability are weak, government officials can still be subject to informal rules and norms created by community solidary groups that have earned high moral standing in the community.Read more
- Was the first book on China which combines extensive ethnographic data with extensive survey data
- Contains in-depth case studies and vivid anecdotes that engage and entertain readers
- Related to the leadership in China which took power in 2003 and which had just identified issues of rural governance, development, and inequality as the biggest problems facing China
Reviews & endorsements
"Lily Tsai has written an outstanding book in which she raises important questions and pursues them with great skill. The use of data is both clever and appropriate; she seldom claims more than she can support, and the claims she makes are driven home with careful ferocity. Tsai also unravels theoretical concepts at a very high level of sophistication, which enables her to situate her China specific findings in a broader comparative context, where democracy is not fully institutionalized."
Atul Kohli, Princeton UniversitySee more reviews
"In this book, Lily Tsai expertly explains why some villages have paved roads, good schools, and running water and others do not. It’s not wealth. Nor is it cadres who fear elections or sanctions from above. Instead, Tsai carefully traces how temples, churches, and lineages offer moral standing to officials who provide public goods and services. In so doing, Tsai brings a missing social component to studies of village governance in China, and a moral component to studies of ‘social capital’ worldwide. An innovative study that deftly mixes survey data and case studies, this book is sure to be a hit among political scientists, sociologists, and anyone interested in China’s ongoing transformation."
Kevin O’Brien, University of California - Berkeley
"Tsai’s book shows what collective corporatism means to most Chinese people, who live in the countryside. It suggests how the party-state evolves or erodes in different kinds of villages, and it provides a much firmer basis than has previously been available for the study of what democracy might eventually mean in rural China. Everyone who is interested in the politics of the world’s most populous country must read this book." br/>Lynn T. White, Princeton University
"This book is a major contribution to the burgeoning literature on state-society relations in present-day China. Lily Tsai’s is the first work that systematically links formal and informal processes at the village level. She has an answer to a difficult question: why do some local officials provide public goods such as roads and schools but many do not, even when village elections are held regularly and when administrative superiors demand action? The answer lies in informal institutions such as lineages and village temples. The authority of these solidary groups enmeshes village officials in norms, expectations, and moral obligations which motivate them to provide benefits to villagers in the form of public goods. Remarkably, even as the Communist Party distrusts lineages and temples, can they play a constructive role in rural development. The author’s methodologically sophisticated, comparative investigation allows her to identify just under what circumstances the linkage between informal village groups and officials operates effectively. This book successfully combines fine social science scholarship with deep understanding of Chinese society and culture."
Thomas P.Bernstein, Columbia University
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- Date Published: August 2007
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9780521871976
- length: 368 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 24 mm
- weight: 0.71kg
- contains: 53 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Governance and informal institutions of accountability
2. Decentralization and local governmental performance
3. Local governmental performance: assessing village public goods provision
4. Informal accountability and the structure of solidary groups
5. Temples and churches in rural China
6. Lineages and local governance
7. Accountability and village democratic reforms
8. The limitations of formal party and bureaucratic institutions
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