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Village-State Relations in Vietnam: The Effect of Everyday Politics on Decollectivization

Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 54, No. 2 (May, 1995), pp. 396-418
DOI: 10.2307/2058744
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2058744
Page Count: 23
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Village-State Relations in Vietnam: The Effect of Everyday Politics on Decollectivization
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Abstract

Why, since 1988, has the Vietnamese government reversed its commitment to collective farming and permitted the revival of family farming? BENEDICT KERKVLIET rejects the obvious explanation-that reversal followed naturally from the post-1986 policy of reform (d oi-moi) or that it merely mimicked Chinese policies. He proposes, as an alternative, that the Vietnamese government has responded with various kinds of accommodations since the mid-1970s to growing popular discontent with its agricultural policies. Borrowing a concept from Brantly Womack, Kerkvliet suggests that Communist parties must be "mass-regarding" both to establish their rule and to maintain it. He links this idea with James Scott's emphasis on the power of everyday peasant resistance to conclude that the Vietnamese Communist Party was responding to popular pressure from below. Thus, Kerkvliet finds that standard characterizations that represent the current regime in Vietnam as a "dominating state" or one that rules through "mobilization authoritarianism" overlook the existence of strong local social pressures that have the capacity for low-level resistance to government policy. Moreover, such characterizations also do not take into account that the Vietnamese state has displayed a long-term concern with ensuring that its policies are acceptable among the peasantry.

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