The Katzenstein Prize, in honor of in honor of Peter J. Katzenstein, the Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, recognizes an outstanding first book in International Relations, Comparative Politics, or Political Economy. The prize was established on the occasion of Professor Katzenstein’s 40th Year at Cornell University and has been made possible by the generous support of his colleagues, collaborators, and former students.
Awarded to Yuen Yuen Ang for her book How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (Cornell, 2016).
In How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, Yuen Yuen Ang offers a revisionist theoretical framework that grapples with complexities of institutional adaptation alongside detailed analyses of sub-national variation in development outcomes. In contrast to conventional wisdom that good governance is a requisite for ameliorating poverty, she points out how weak institutions can, at times, allow for innovations in the development of markets. Thus Ang’s project contributes to multiple debates, including but not limited to China. Theoretically, her systematic engagement with diverse literatures circumvents disagreement over which came first, democracy or development, to make a field-shifting move to non-linear complex processes. How China Escaped the Poverty Trap goes far beyond saying context matters to show how non-linear processes are simultaneously place-specific in their manifestations (e.g. China) yet general (to a wide range of contexts). In addition, Ang’s research offers an exemplar of how to move beyond methodological nationalism through attention to sub-national variation. Beyond area specialists, anyone concerned with institutions, development, or the role of China in the world, should read this elegantly written book.