Thailand's Political Peasants: Power in the Modern Rural Economy

Overview

When a populist movement elected Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister of Thailand in 2001, many of the country’s urban elite dismissed the outcome as just another symptom of rural corruption, a traditional patronage system dominated by local strongmen pressuring their neighbors through political bullying and vote-buying. In Thailand’s Political Peasants, however, Andrew Walker argues that the emergence of an entirely new socioeconomic dynamic has dramatically changed the relations of Thai peasants with the state,...

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Thailand's Political Peasants: Power in the Modern Rural Economy

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Overview

When a populist movement elected Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister of Thailand in 2001, many of the country’s urban elite dismissed the outcome as just another symptom of rural corruption, a traditional patronage system dominated by local strongmen pressuring their neighbors through political bullying and vote-buying. In Thailand’s Political Peasants, however, Andrew Walker argues that the emergence of an entirely new socioeconomic dynamic has dramatically changed the relations of Thai peasants with the state, making them a political force to be reckoned with. Whereas their ancestors focused on subsistence, this generation of middle-income peasants seeks productive relationships with sources of state power, produces cash crops, and derives additional income through non-agricultural work. In the increasingly decentralized, disaggregated country, rural villagers and farmers have themselves become entrepreneurs and agents of the state at the local level, while the state has changed from an extractor of taxes to a supplier of subsidies and a patron of development projects.
    Thailand’s Political Peasants provides an original, provocative analysis that encourages an ethnographic rethinking of rural politics in rapidly developing countries. Drawing on six years of fieldwork in Ban Tiam, a rural village in northern Thailand, Walker shows how analyses of peasant politics that focus primarily on rebellion, resistance, and evasion are becoming less useful for understanding emergent forms of political society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The first book to offer a detailed view of the socioeconomic changes underlying the tumultuous events in Thailand’s twenty-first-century politics. Andrew Walker shows why the upsurge of rural politics in Thailand cannot be ignored.”—Chris Baker, author of A History of Thailand

“An elegant and convincing account of change in northern Thailand. Walker dismantles and challenges some of the ingrained assumptions about agrarian change and its impacts on ordinary people in rural areas.”—Jonathan Rigg, author of Southeast Asia: The Human Landscape of Modernization and Development

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299288242
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 8/6/2012
  • Series: New Perspectives in Se Asian Studies Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Walker is senior fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change in the College of Asia and the Pacific at Australian National University. He is the coauthor of Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailand and the cofounder of New Mandala, an influential blog that comments on contemporary Southeast Asian politics.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Peasants, Power and Political Society

1 Thailand's Persistent Peasantry

2 Ban Tiam's Middle-Income Rural Economy

3 Drawing Power into Private Realms

4 Contracts, Private Capital and the State

5 The Political Economy of Projects

6 Community, Legibility and Eligibility

7 The Rural Constitution

Conclusion: Peasants and Political society

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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