Roots of the State: Neighborhood Organization and Social Networks in Beijing and Taipei


Benjamin L. Read

Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific


Stanford: Stanford University Press

Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8047-7565-6
Binding: paper
Pages: 376


Roots of the State: Neighborhood Organization and Social Networks in Beijing and Taipei is the nineteenth title in the East-West Center book series, Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific, published by Stanford University Press.

Most social science studies of local organizations tend to focus on "civil society" associations, voluntary groups independent from state control, whereas government-sponsored organizations tend to be theorized in totalitarian terms as "mass organizations" or manifestations of state corporatism. Roots of the State examines neighborhood-level structures in Beijing and Taipei that occupy a unique space that exists between these concepts.

Benjamin L. Read views the work of such organizations in East and Southeast Asia as a form of "administrative grassroots engagement." States sponsor networks of organizations at the most local of levels, and the networks facilitate governance and policing by building personal relationships with members of society. Leaders serve as the state's designated liaisons within the neighborhood and perform administrative duties covering a wide range of government programs, from welfare to political mobilization. These partly state-controlled entities also provide a range of everyday services to their constituents.

Such institutions, initially created as tools of control, may underpin a repressive regime such as China's, but they also can evolve to empower societies, as in Taiwan. This book engages broad and much-discussed questions about governance and political participation in both authoritarian and democratic regimes.


Details and ordering information at
Stanford University Press

List of Illustrations
Notes on Names, Terms, and Romanization
  1. Introduction: Administration at the Grass Roots in East and Southeast Asia
  2. The Little Platoon: Structuring the Neighborhood
  3. Elections, Bogus and Bona Fide
  4. Power Relations at the Alley Level
  5. Perceptions and Interaction
  6. Thick Networks and State-Mobilized Volunteers
  7. Thin Networks and the Appeals of Organic Statism
  8. The Landscape of Grassroots Administration: Comparative Cases
  9. Conclusion
Appendix 1: Research Methods
Appendix 2: Beyond the Two Capitals


"This impressive new study sheds light on an overlooked trend: the emergence of local neighborhood associations as political actors. Not fully extensions of the state, not fully creations of society, these associations highlight the complexity of local politics, as well as their promise."

-- Bruce J. Dickson, George Washington University


"Roots of the State offers an intimate glimpse into the life and work of the neighborhood organizations that are the state's first thread of connection to its citizens. The themes and arguments raised here broaden our understanding of authoritarian regimes and reveal how alternative models of governance operate."

-- Mary Gallagher, University of Michigan