1. The subtitle is A New Theory of Chinese History, and volume one has just been translated and published from the Chinese.
2. The author, Dingxin Zhao, now is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago.
3. The book has a curious 19th century air to its intellectual influences. The main argument uses Herbert Spencer to revise Michael Mann, a 20th century British sociologist who wrote on the sources of power. Lamarckian ideas are deployed frequently.
4. The Western model has had four independent power sources: states, churches, aristocracy, and the urban bourgeoisie.
5. Neither merchants nor religion had much of a strong, independent role in early Chinese politics. Only the state and the aristocracy were powerful actors.
6. In the model of this book, the dual forces of competition and institutionalization drive historical change. More than anything else, individuals maximize power.
7. The empowerment of economic power by ideology is the most fundamental feature of modernity.
8. “Three pivotal institutions of Western Zhou origin exerted an enduring impact on the history of China: the Mandate of Heaven, the kinship-based “feudal” system, and lineage law.” (p.79)
This is not an easy work to parse, but it is a book of substance and it reflects a considerable amount of careful thought.