Who’s governing the market? Bringing the individual back in to the developmental state

Hybrid Event

The thrust of explanations of the East Asian economic miracle has a structural orientation, pointing to culture, geopolitics, and bureaucratic institutions. One of the central contentions is that institutions – such as Japan’s MITI and its economic miracle (Johnson, 1982) led “state-directed development” (Kohli, 2004). Beyond policy and governmental explanations, scholars have emphasized that human capital investment, land reform, religion, colonial origins, and geopolitics, particularly close relationships with the US, were important drivers.

Much less insight has been provided into the individual actors responsible for leading the miracles. There are individual biographical accounts of key leaders, such as Taiwan’s K.T. Li, the “father of Taiwan’s economic miracle”. But there remains insufficient systematic analysis at the individual level, especially across policy leaders rather than politicians.

Collectively, the primacy of “structure over agency” and lack of systematic studies at the individual level motivates the authors’ (Robyn Klingler-Vidra (KCL), Adam W. Chalmers (Edinburgh), Robert H. Wade (LSE)) research.

The authors study the personal characteristics of the complete set of innovation policy leaders comprising East Asia’s developmental states. In doing so, they reveal the educational and professional backgrounds of the political leaders “governing the market” (Wade, 1990) since the beginning of the post-war era. This is admittedly only a first step in understanding how the individuals may have informed the performance of East Asian developmental states.

The analysis centres on their unique dataset of the 1,110 Northeast Asia’s innovation policy leaders who held one of the two most-senior positions in the innovation agencies of China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan over the 1945 to 2021 period.

This seminar is part of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention Hilary Term Seminar Series on technology and social policy.

Booking required for people outside of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention (DSPI). DSPI Members do not need to register.