The article presents results from a survey of Vietnamese Farmers’ Organisations. This covered both official and private bodies, and so permits comparison between various Party-sponsored cooperatives and other organisations. The sample covered provinces in the north, centre and south of the country, and generated a database with information from interviews with 1,800 households. This was complemented by extensive qualitative work, both through interviews and focus groups. Orthodox Leninist collectivisation occurred in north Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and, after Reunification in 1975-76, in the south. Successful in southcentral Vietnam in the late 1970s, cooperatives were never firmly established in the Mekong delta. After partial reforms in 1981, 1988 saw more far-reaching measures widely labelled ‘decollectivisation’. However, by the late 1990s many cooperatives remained. Passage of the Cooperative Law in 1996, which inter alia introduced ‘new– style’ cooperatives as a vehicle for Party-sponsored rural development as well as requiring all cooperatives to operate under it, was widely ignored. The research shows that regional differences remain considerable. In the south, farmers’ organisations reflect a neo-institutional economic logic, with forms reflecting varying issues, such as those to do with market failure in a technical sense. In the centre, whilst official forms are largely de rigueur they are managed with a high officially advocated degree of ‘managed democracy’. In the north, complex political manoeuvres use the shells of formal structures as a theatre for conflict and negotiation, within which economic issues play a certain part.


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