Between Heaven and Earth

W. A. W., Franz Werfel
1946 Books Abroad  
Scholars have noticed that centrally-appointed officials in imperial China were not only beholden to their superiors but also acted as brokers of local interests. We characterize such a structural position as "dual accountability." Although accountability to superiors is readily understandable within the Weberian framework of bureaucratic hierarchy, the reasons behind local responsiveness bear explanation. This paper attempts to explain such responsiveness by investigating the larger
more » ... , structural, and institutional contexts of the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). We explore two existing explanationspractical necessity and "Confucian" or classical paternalism -and add a new explanation of our own: the emphasis on virtuous reputations in the system of bureaucratic recruitment and promotion. Our argument is supported by empirical evidence from a range of sources, including administrative records and inscriptions on ancient stelae. More generally, we question Weber's hypothesis that the Chinese imperial system of administration fit the ideal type of traditional bureaucracy, and we examine the rational bases underlying an "inefficient" system that was in place for two millennia. Running Head: Dual Accountability in Han China Word Count: 13,804 Dual Accountability in Han China, Page 3 BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH: DUAL ACCOUNTABILITY IN HAN CHINA A field commander must decide even against king's orders. (將在外君命有所不受) --A Chinese proverb Theoretical Issues In the most influential account of China in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Jean-Baptiste du Halde (1674-1743) remarked, "One cannot help being surprised to see a people infinitely numerous, naturally unquiet, self-interested even to excess, and always endeavoring to be rich, nevertheless governed and kept within the bounds of their duty by a small number of Mandarins" (Du Halde 1741, II, p. 32). To be sure, Du Halde was commenting upon the situation during his own lifetime; yet his observations arguably capture the situation for most periods of Chinese history. Indeed, the question of how an immense population was governed by a small state for over two millennia has intrigued generations of Western scholars since Du Halde (Chang 1955;
doi:10.2307/40088617 fatcat:7etx7dfeqfh57hc73nuoivegfq