Lao peasants under socialism and post-socialism

TitleLao peasants under socialism and post-socialism
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication1990
AuthorsEvans G
PublisherYale University Press
Place PublishedNew Haven
Key themesDistribution, MarginalisedPeople, Policy-law

Communist revolutions, which attempt to radically alter the total social structure of societies, usually move quickly to transform peasants into collective farmers. In this book, Grant Evans focuses on Laos to analyze peasant response to agricultural collectivization. Evans challenges fundamental assumptions held by communist governments and many Marxist anthropologists about human nature and peasant societies. He also provides the first major study of rural Laos since the communists came to power there in 1975. According to Evans, socialist leaders assume that traditional peasant societies display a range of cooperative institutions and an innately collaborative mentality that can be built upon to establish socialist institutions. However, in examining the confrontation between the modernizing socialist regime and the society of Lao peasants, Evans finds that the types of cooperation typical of the Laotian pre-revolutionary "natural economy" are in fact structurally inimical to the establishment of collective farming as visualized by the country's new leaders. Evans points out that one of the many paradoxes of communism's encounter with peasant society—especially a society as deeply embedded in the natural economy as the Lao peasantry—is that orthodox communist policies tend to entrench the natural economy rather than transform it. Frustrated by this unexpected outcome, the state tends to escalate its coercion of the peasants. Only if the communists abandon their long-held assumptions about the nature of both communist society and peasant society is this outcome avoidable. Evans suggests that some form of market socialism would be a more appropriate goal in that it would be more likely both to stimulate production and to attract support among the peasantry.


Copyright Book



Document Type