The Monopoly over Violence in a Late Modernizer: Evidence from Imperial China

Posted: 27 Jul 2018 Last revised: 19 Jun 2019

See all articles by Mark Dincecco

Mark Dincecco

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Yuhua Wang

Department of Government, Harvard University

Date Written: February 12, 2019

Abstract

This study analyzes how the state may establish or lose a monopoly over violence in the context of late modernizers, taking imperial China as a laboratory. We construct new micro-level data that span several hundred years. We show evidence that, traditionally, there was greater state development -- at the expense of private security provision via the clan -- in response to mass rebellion, because the cost of public security was relatively low. After 1850, however, there was a dramatic increase in this cost due to China's military loss to the West. In turn, we find evidence for greater private security provision -- now at the expense of public provision -- in response to internal conflict. This change reduced the imperial state's monopoly over violence and eventually promoted state failure. Our study provides a new perspective on the long-run political dynamics of the Great Divergence.


Keywords: State Development, Violent Conflict, Elite Action, Great Divergence, China

JEL Classification: N45, P48, O10, H10

Suggested Citation

Dincecco, Mark and Wang, Yuhua, The Monopoly over Violence in a Late Modernizer: Evidence from Imperial China (February 12, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3209556 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3209556

Mark Dincecco (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street

Yuhua Wang

Department of Government, Harvard University ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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