Thursday, May 14, 2009

The problem of diverse meritocracies   posted by Razib @ 5/14/2009 07:28:00 PM

From page 17 of Neo-Confucianism in History:
...Already by the 1050s southerners accounted for the majority of the literary men; within a century southerners would tower over intellectual culture, as they would continue to do for centuries to come. By the 1070s officials from the south had come to dominate policy-making offices. Literati knew this, but in the latter half of the eleventh century they were divided over the solution. Some called on the court to institute regional quotas for the civil service examinations but defended a system that would favor talent above regional representation....

This describes the period of the Northern Song. Though militarily and politically the Song were a subpar dynasty, in terms of cultural and economic production they were exceptional. In fact it is common for historians to wonder why the Song efflorescence did not lead to a Chinese industrial revolution and Great Divergence. In any case, I am struck by the aspects of geographic determinism evident during the Song period, and the analogies one can draw to the Germanic-speaking world in the 17th and 18th centuries as recounted in Tim Blanning's The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815. While the Rhineland, the Netherlands and north German ports saw the emergence of robust proto-capitalist commercial cities facilitated by cheap water transport, the cities of the Central European Austrian domains still remained primarily centers of royal pomp and bureaucratic administration. The same contrast is clear during the Song dynasty between the inland northern cities, and those urban areas with access to water transport, particularly in the south.

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