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Deakin, Simon and Meng, Gaofeng (2022) 'Resolving Douglass C. North’s ‘puzzle’ concerning China’s household responsibility system.' Journal of Institutional Economics, 18 (4). pp. 521-535.

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This paper considers Douglass C. North's ‘puzzle’ concerning China's household responsibility system (HRS) and offers a possible solution. China's HRS, which has evolved over the past four decades to become its dominant form of rural land ownership, has stimulated spectacular economic growth and poverty reduction; however, it is based on a type of ownership which is far removed from the property rights regime which North regarded as essential. Two features of the HRS merit attention. The first is ‘split ownership’: this refers to the allocation of different aspects of ownership, including rights of access, use, management, exclusion and alienation, to a range of individual and collective actors with interests in the land in question. The second is polycentric governance: rules governing land use are derived in part from community-level action and in part from state intervention. We argue that in explaining the functioning of the HRS we need to move beyond the narrow conception of legally enforced private property rights on which North relied. We should instead embrace understandings of ownership as an emergent, diverse and complex institution, of the kind emphasized by A.M. Honoré's legal theory of ownership and Elinor Ostrom's theories of the common-pool resource and polycentric governance.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: China; common-pool resource; household responsibility system; ownership; polycentric governance; property rights
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions (Asia, Africa, Australia)
K Law > KL Asia and Eurasia, Africa, Pacific Area, and Antarctica
H Social Sciences
J Political Science
K Law
ISSN: 17441374
Copyright Statement: Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Millennium Economics Ltd
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2022 11:14
Related URLs: ... lity_system.pdf (Publisher URL)

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