Accountability Without Democracy: Solidary Groups and Public Goods Provision in Rural China

In This Review

Accountability Without Democracy: Solidary Groups and Public Goods Provision in Rural China

By Lily L. Tsai
Cambridge University Press, 2007
368 pp. $85.00
Purchase

In seeking to answer why rural communities in China generally accept the authority of the distant national state, Tsai makes a significant contribution to theorizing about the relationships between state, society, and community -- and which should provide such public goods as roads, schools, drinking water, and health care. She examines the division of responsibilities in four Chinese provinces and makes the case that such public goods can be provided by "solidary groups." She challenges the assumption that democracy is essential for assuring the accountability of rural authorities. Rural leaders want to command the respect of fellow citizens who are co-members with them in the same "solidary group." This study is an impressive demonstration of what research collaboration can accomplish. Tsai tapped the research skills of Chinese undergraduate and graduate students to carry out much of the fieldwork and data collection, which is impressive: her book has statistical appendices that total more than 50 pages.