China Isn’t Socialist, It’s High Modernist

22 03 2014

AS: That’s the theme of a recent blog post by Dart-Throwing Chimp. Discussing the Chinese state’s plans to socially engineer the rate of urbanisation, he writes:

In certain circles of development studies, it’s become almost cliché to invoke James Scott’s Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have FailedI’m going to do it anyway—because the book is that good, but also because Scott’s framework suggests two important predictions about where China’s process of managed urbanization is headed.

DTC goes on to make some good points about China’s government. I agree that Scott’s book is an important one that every social scientist ought to read. However, it also needs to be said that Scott’s concept of “high modernism” has a lot of similarities to F.A. Hayek’s concept of “rational constructivism.” Hayek developed the term “rational constructivist” to identify the mindset that was behind central planning and other attempts to impose grandiose master plans on society.  In my view, Hayek’s discussion of this issue is far more sophisticated than that of Scott. I would certainly commend DTC for reading and citing Scott’s important work, but I would encourage him to re-engage with Hayek’s ideas.

China Isn’t Socialist, It’s High Modernist.

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