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Mobilizing for Development

The Modernization of Rural East Asia

Mobilizing for Development tackles the question of how countries achieve rural development and offers a new way of thinking about East Asia's political economy that challenges the developmental state paradigm. Through a comparison of Taiwan (1950s–1970s), South Korea (1950s–1970s), and China (1980s–2000s), Kristen E. Looney shows that different types of development outcomes—improvements in agricultural production, rural living standards, and the village environment—were realized to different degrees, at different times, and in different ways. She argues that rural modernization campaigns, defined as policies demanding high levels of mobilization to effect dramatic change, played a central role in the region and that divergent development outcomes can be attributed to the interplay between campaigns and institutions. The analysis departs from common portrayals of the developmental state as wholly technocratic and demonstrates that rural development was not just a byproduct of industrialization. Looney's research is based on several years of fieldwork in Asia and makes a unique contribution by systematically comparing China's development experience with other countries. Relevant to political science, economic history, rural sociology, and Asian Studies, the book enriches our understanding of state-led development and agrarian change.

Author Information

Kristen Looney, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA.


Dr. Kate Xiao Zhou, University of Hawaii:

"Mobilizing for Development challenges the dominate view of East Asian state development model by focusing on different strands of political culture and modes of politics. The focus on how institutions and campaigns interacted to affect rural development in East Asia provides a new theoretical understanding of the development state and other body of literature on development."

Andrew Mertha, George and Sadie Hyman Professor and Director of China Studies, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University:

"Kristen Looney's path-breaking book forces us to rethink the state's role in development strategies, the ways in which rural society organizes politically for economic gain, and how to compare East Asian newly-industrializing economies.  Her explanatory mechanism is political campaigns, an audacious analytical approach that will change the way we understand urban bias, state-society relations, and developmental imperatives."

Audience: General/trade;