Prometheus bound: Technology and industrialization in Japan, China and India prior to 1914—a political economy approach

Annals of Science 45 (4):399-426 (1988)
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Abstract

SummaryThe contrasting economic and technological histories of Japan, China, and India prior to 1914 are very often explained in socio-cultural terms. It is too easily assumed that culturally Japan was somehow more ‘prone’ to development along Western lines than were either of China and India. This paper addresses the socalled ‘failure’ of economic modernization in China and India in terms of socioeconomic processes and mechanisms. Knowledge and machinery were transferred to all three nations prior to 1914. But only in Japan were conditions favourable to the subsequent adoption, diffusion, and adaptation of technologies. A major argument is that officialdom in China and India was not unwary or dissolute but merely hamstrung through a removal of effective sovereignty over decision making. The reduction of sovereignty was of greater importance than the supposed retardative impact of deeply held cultural traits.

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