The Great Political Divergence
59 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2021 Last revised: 29 Sep 2021
Date Written: June 18, 2021
This paper investigates the worldwide phenomenon of "political divergence'' between the East and the West. During the 8th to 10th centuries, Western Europe and China both achieved political stability, but they did so through dramatically different routes. Western Europe developed parliamentary representation on the basis of a power balance between the aristocracy and the crown, whereas China consolidated absolutism based on a state bureaucracy and an exam-based meritocracy. This paper provides empirical evidence to document this great political divergence, and it proposes a theory to understand the relationship between institutions and the monarchy-aristocracy power balance and the implications for political stability and long-run political development.
Keywords: Historical political development, elite politics, institutions, the Great Divergence
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