Historical lessons about contemporary social welfare
Chinese puzzles and global challenges
in History, historians and development policy

This chapter considers the issues of social welfare and political accountability. It argues, contrary to the general implications of research and scholarly observations, levels of social welfare need not always vary positively with levels of democratic practice. The chapter suggests that technologies of rule that enable concerns for social welfare can exist quite independently of European-derived ideas and institutions of political representation and government administration. It explores whether these non-European practices suggest ways to approach social welfare challenges beyond the specific case of China. China's reproduction of agrarian empire has to be considered a major subject in world history. The chapter considers a part of this subject that connects quite directly to the capacities and commitments of the contemporary Chinese state toward its subjects. In nineteenth-century China, taxation begins to increase dramatically at mid-century and bureaucratic effort is shifted from social spending to military and defense matters.

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