Chapter 10: Conclusion: fragile prosperity and the matter of divergence
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This conclusive chapter proposes another interpretation of the Europe/China divergence, based on a redefinition of capitalism in much broader terms than its mere reduction to the industrial revolution. It recalls the reasons why merchant networks were unable to formalize autonomous institutions, in order to confer a perennial scope to their affairs. It revisits the paradox of Chinese economic history where the emergence of rich merchants does not translate into steady capital accumulation. The Ming commercial revolution was not the premise of a new world, but rather the sign of a dying economy whose dynamism had been exhausted. There was indeed a socio-economic transformation of China under the Qing, but it took place in a political framework and geopolitical context very different from Europe. The transformation towards a capitalist economy was halted, while the rise of the market economy paradoxically contributed to the weakening of the imperial administration.

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