Panel Paper: How Only East Asian Developmental States Overcame the Kuznets Curve: Conceptualization of Developmental State and Conservative Corporatism for the Explanation of Egalitarianism

Friday, March 9, 2018
Room 16 (Burkle Family Building at Claremont Graduate University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Seokdong Kim, Claremont Graduate University

East Asian developmental states, such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, could exert strong state capacities for initial egalitarian distribution in state building and subsequent long-term redistribution. These states’ conservative corporatism as their asymmetric coordination with firms but without labor had unique redistribution with near-full employment and public education but without enough social expenditures and institutionalized welfare regimes. How did developmental states achieve the dual goals of developmentalism and egalitarianism despite their weak welfare regimes? This research conceptualizes the developmental state’s conservative corporatism in nation state development to identify the role of conservative corporatism in long-term redistribution as a precondition of successful nation states. In order to build strong states with high state capacities, state structure should meet institutional efficiency to promote Pareto optimality that enhances, and does not diminish, every party’s utilities in resource allocation. In ethnically homogeneous and socioeconomically egalitarian societies in state building—as shown in developmental states—the mobilization system for power centralization through nationalism promoted institutional efficiency, and became an institutional package for national development in the rapid industrialization period. Strong nationalism, which is a favorable condition for conservative corporatism, made developmental states exert state capacities for growth and redistribution. Under state-led coordination, the virtuous cycle between high economic growth and long-term redistribution is the East Asian phenomenon, illuminating developmental states’ initial egalitarianism as well as the synergic effect between growth and redistribution. This mechanism explains how developmental states overcame the Kuznets curve that displays severe inequality in the peak of industrialization, as shown in Western Europe before World War II and Latin America at present.

East Asian developmental states a representative form of strong states. Why did they achieve the dual goals of developmentalism, such as economic growth, on the one hand, and egalitarianism, like initial egalitarian distribution and long-term redistribution, on the other? Successful state building should be identified in terms of political integration and initial distribution. Conservative corporatism is developmental states’ coordination mechanism to maintain long-term redistribution. This long-term redistribution led to consistent economic growth, from which developmental states realized transition from developing to developed economies for several decades. As for developmental states’ historical glory, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have achieved state-led, rapid economic development through export-oriented industrialization in world trades on the one hand, and modernization projects such as advanced education for national wealth and modernization projects on the other.