The Political Science Of The Empire, Long Divided, By Max Weber

1016 Words Nov 30th, 2015 5 Pages
“The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide,” so begins my favorite book from childhood, the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The crumpling of the ancient Han Empire and the emergence of new political forces described in the novel have long intrigued me. I was fascinated by the descriptions of good policies and failed ones, of rebellions and coups, and of the slow and painful transition to a new political order. Though the term “political science” was unfamiliar to me then, I was already pondering what makes a governing institution legitimate in the eyes of the governed and why once glorious empires disintegrate.

These questions remain relevant for today’s China, since many uncertainties remain about the current communist government’s legitimacy and longevity. Growing up in post-reform China, I experienced much of the tremendous economic and social liberalizations first hand and wondered why political reform was not forthcoming. Max Weber famously theorized that a modern state claims legitimacy through its legality and rationality: that means equal applications of law, bureaucratic form of organization, and ultimately, democracy. Yet these features are mostly absent in China today. Does that mean the current Chinese government has no claim to sustainable legitimacy, or that it has established an alternative source of legitimacy that is less dependent on legality and democracy? How will the legitimacy question shape China’s…

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