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The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520039544
ISBN-10: 9780520039544
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 11, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780520039544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520039544
  • ASIN: 0520039548
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Samuel L. Popkin is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. He has also been a consulting analyst in presidential campaigns, serving as consultant to the Clinton campaign on polling and strategy, to the CBS News election units from 1983 to 1990 on survey design and analysis, and more recently to the Gore campaign. He has also served as consultant to political parties in Canada and Europe and to the Departments of State and Defense. His most recent book is The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns; earlier he co-authored Issues and Strategies: The Computer Simulation of Presidential Campaigns; and he co-edited Chief of Staff: Twenty-Five Years of Managing the Presidency.(Photo Credit: Rebecca Webb)

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Format: Paperback
Popkin explores the rationale for peasant protest. In The Rational Peasant, Popkin attempts to discredit the common assumption of moral economy and impose his own idea of political economy. Moral economists believe that peasant protest is a result of falling below a subsistence level (short-run security), or the loss of traditional institutions that "provided for peasant welfare (long-term security)" which often result as the imposition of a capitalist economy (5). In other words, the peasant, according to moral economists, is seeking to protect that which he already has, namely security, rather than seeking to advance his position. The moral economist continues by suggesting that peasants rise up in protest when they fall below this subsistence floor, or when particular institutions that preserve peasant security and welfare are removed due to an emergence of capitalism or through colonization.

Popkin attacks the position of moral economists by proposing a rational choice alternative he dubs political economy. According the political economic approach espoused by Popkin, the peasant is not so concerned with maintaining the status quo as the moral economist would have us believe. Rather, the peasant is concerned with maximizing his or her utility. They are willing to gamble and take risks in order to secure a higher social level. The peasant's behavior is always guided by economic rationality.

Although agreeing with Popkin's thesis, I would suggest some improvements in methodology. For example, Popkin made an interesting case study analysis by analyzing the three main historical regions of Vietnam.
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I used this book whern working in my PhD thesis (http://bibliotecadigital.uca.edu.ar/repositorio/tesis/experiencias-realizaciones-origen.pdf). It really helped me to support some comparisons in universal conditions found in rural areas between two very different cultures. It was very helpful, indeed. At the extend that the epigraph in the chapter of the thesis which deals with a rural movement that acted in the northeast part of my country (Argentina) in the 1960's, was with Popkin's sentence “Whether religious or political, movements that change the basis of peasant society generate conflict and violence.” Unfortunatedly and due to space reasons I couldnt use the epigraph when writing my book Iglesia y compromiso, Ediciones Ágape, Buenos Aires, 2014, although several ideas discussed in Popkin`s book were included.
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Popkin is a handful of author who write about the socioeconomic cause and effect in Vietnam prior to the Vietnam War. His book concentrated on period of the Nguyen Dynasty and the French Colonial Period. It dispels many myths about the driving force behind the conflict in Vietnam.

The other reviewer, Matthew P. Arsenault, missed the point. This is perhap because he is prejudiced by his romantic notion of "nationalism." There were numerous peasant uprising during the Nguyen Dynasty (before the arrival of French Colonial Power). If nationalism is such the primary reason, why did peasant rebelled when they were ruled by fellow Vietnamese. Peasant uprisings were also common in China and Japan before modern time.
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Thank you seller, this book benefits me a lot, particularly in the debate between the rational choice approach and moral economy approach.
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