Tradition, Revolution, and Market Economy in a North Vietnamese Village, 1925-2006
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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In 1992 I published Revolution in the Village: Tradition and Transformation in North Vietnam, 1925–1988. This book examines the political, economic, and sociocultural changes over six decades in the small village of Sơn-Dương in northern Vietnam, spanning the French colonial era, through the violent conflicts with French and American powers and the socialist construction, and the reforms within the command economy framework.
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I first learned of Sơn-Dương village in 1984, when my colleague Sidney Mintz introduced me to Nguyễn Đắc Bằng. Mr. Bằng, an octogenarian exile living in Toronto then, had received two death sentences from the French regime in Vietnam for having participated in an anticolonial uprising in 1930 organized by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party. Both sentences were commuted, and he was subsequently sent to French Guiana, together with other Vietnamese inmates, to open up the interior of this sparsely populated French colony in South America.
Abbreviations and Units of Measure
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Like virtually all other rural communities in the Red River delta of North Vietnam, the village of Sơn-Dương, lying behind a bamboo hedge, is well hidden from the paved provincial highway. In order to get to the village, one has to turn off the provincial highway onto a pothole-ridden dirt road. A one-mile ride along this road into the village leaves a vehicle completely covered either with dirt or red mud from the potholes, depending on whether the road has been baked in the hot sun or watered by a tropical summer downpour.
Part I. Historical Events and Village Structure in Colonial Northern Vietnam
Chapter 1 Vietnamese Anticolonialism, 1884-1930: A Microscopic Perspective on Historical Events
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On February 10, 1930, the Ministry of Colonies in Paris received a “most urgent” cable reporting that two Vietnamese companies in the colonial infantry had revolted in Yên-Báy, a town located 153 kilometers northeast of Hanoi (AOM-P-NF, 322–2614). Other “urgent” cables reported armed violence in the northern provinces of Phú-Thọ, Thái-Bình, and Hải-Dương, as well as bombing incidents at colonial government buildings in Hanoi.
Chapter 2 Village Structure in Revolutionary Processes, 1925-1930
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In Hanoi on November 23, 1925, Phan Bội Châu, the soul of anticolonial activism, was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. On March 24, 1926, Phan Chu Trinh, the other much-admired anticolonialist and the primary spokesman for the reformist school, died in Saigon shortly after his return to Vietnam from a fourteen-year exile in France. The trial of Phan Bội Châu in Hanoi provoked nationwide agitation for his pardon.
Chapter 3 In the Name of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity"
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In the aftermath of the Vietnamese Nationalist Party uprising in February 1930, the French undertook quick and strong repressive measures. In Y
Part II. The Revolution in the Village
Chapter 4 The Rise of Marxist Power
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On September 2, 1945, to a tumultuous crowd of half a million Vietnamese in Hanoi as well as to the nation and the world at large, Hồ Chí Minh declared the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam:...
Chapter 5 The Revolution in the Village, 1954-1988
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On June 30, 1987, the village of Sơn-Dương organized a formal ceremony to receive the Third-class Labor Medal from the national government. The village was commended for a wide variety of achievements, ranging from agricultural production and a rapid decline in birth rate to measures of economy in the life-cycle rituals. Invited to the ceremony were not only the incumbent high-ranking cadres from surrounding villages, the district, and the province, but also retired high-ranking cadres from Sơn-Dương and the oldest villager from each of the four hamlets to represent the rest of the population.
Part III. Market Economy and Local Dynamics
Chapter 6 The Market Economy and Socioeconomic Differentiation
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In 2006 the village of Sơn-Dương was more integrated into the Vietnamese market economy and the global capitalist system than at any point since the consolidation of power by the postcolonial Vietnamese state in 1954. This integration was partly facilitated by a better road and transport system. Living standards had significantly improved as a result of agricultural decollectivization and market economy participation, the greater vulnerabilities of the poor notwithstanding. The relatively egalitarian class system during the command-economy era had also become gradually restructured as a result.
Chapter 7 The Intensification of Social and Ritual Life
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With the contraction of economic space under state control and increasing private wealth, villagers in Sơn-Dương intensified their ritual activities and relations in their social networks, both through gift exchanges and through the establishment of numerous voluntary associations. Social relations intensified mainly among the villagers of Sơn- Dương, in parallel with the considerable persistence of village endogamy, despite the stronger integration of Sơn-Dương into the national economy and the global capitalist system.
Chapter 8 The Restructuring of Local Governance
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In July 1998, revisiting Sơn-Dương commune for the first time in seven years, I was startled by the profound crisis that had arisen in the relationship between the local population and the commune administration. As a reflection of its magnitude, from 1993 to 1998, under strong local social pressure, many Communist Party secretaries and presidents of the People’s Committee had quickly succeeded one another. Tensions reached a boiling point during my visit: local families were reportedly refusing to pay not only their irrigation fees but also commune levies.
Chapter 9 Theoretical Reflections
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The past century has witnessed violent turns in the encounter between capitalist imperialism and the social formations of agrarian societies at the periphery of the capitalist world system. The emerging social formations at the periphery, which are built on the basis of noncapitalist principles in many cases, have also been fundamentally restructured in the past half a century. In many respects the dynamics of this encounter and subsequent restructuring are epitomized in the Vietnamese revolution.
Appendix 1: Regulations on Cultured Life in Hamlet 5
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Appendix 2: Chronology
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Appendix 3: Significant People in Son-Duong Village and Anticolonial History
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Publication Year: 2010