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Network Origins of the Global Economy: East vs. West in a Complex Systems Perspective

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Abstract

The upheavals of recent decades show us that traditional models of understanding processes of social and economic change are failing to capture real-world risk and volatility. This has resulted in flawed policy that seeks to capture change in terms of the rise or decline of regimes or regions. In order to comprehend current events, understand future risks and decide how to prepare for them, we need to consider economies and social orders as open, complex networks. This highly original work uses the tools of network analysis to understand great transitions in history, particularly those concerning economic development and globalisation. Hilton L. Root shifts attention away from particular agents - whether individuals, groups, nations or policy interventions - and toward their dynamic interactions. Applying insights from complexity science to often overlooked variables across European and Chinese history, he explores the implications of China's unique trajectory and ascendency, as a competitor and counterexample to the West.
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... The Central Plains, on the South side of the Great Wall were inhabited by a sedentary agrarian population who were majority Han. The Chinese state was precociously centralized and highly autocratic (Fukuyama, 2011;Root, 2020;Xue, 2021). It had well-developed bureaucracies, tax and legal systems, and, most importantly, the village as the basic administrative unit. ...
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... However, even recent studies examined the diffusion of conflict and peace in this complex interdependence world (Dorussen et al., 2016). Since network analysis of the global political economy attracts more scholarly attention in IR against traditional models of understanding (Root, 2020), Dorussen et al. (2016) follow a networked international politics interpretation. ...
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The transition from a managed economy in the twentieth century to a platform economy in the twenty-first century is perhaps best summed up by Historian Niall Ferguson (2019) in his book The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power from the Freemasons to Facebook. Ferguson starts his story in Italian city states, where a tower sits in the middle of the town square. The tower represents the hierarchy, and the crucial incentive that favored the hierarchical order was that it made the exercise of power more efficient. Moreover, absolutism could be a source of social cohesion. Yet the defect of autocracy is obvious, too. No individual, no matter how talented, has the capacity to contend with all the challenges of imperial governance, and almost no one is able to resist the corrupting temptations of absolute power. Networks are changing the power balance of firms, governments, and countries (Root, 2020).
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