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3 Illicit Bureaucrats

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Chapter Summary

This chapter gets past the simplified representations of clerks and runners as stock villains in order to better understand their role in Ba county government and the part their actions might have played in the relationship between the Qing state and local communities. Weber characterized a modern bureaucratic organization as being both legal and rational. It is rational in that utilitarian administrative duties are clearly tied to specific offices, the functions of which are placed in a well defined hierarchy of responsibility and authority. The image of corruption among yamen clerks and runners has been one of the most durable shibboleths in one's perceptions of county government under the Qing dynasty. Clerks and runners were thus seen not only as avaricious, but as an active threat to the very basis of the social order upon which both gentry and imperial authority rested.

Keywords: Ba county government; bureaucratic organization; corruption; imperial authority; Qing state; runners; yamen clerks

10.1163/9789004271890_005
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