What's left? land expropriation, socialist "modernizers," and peasant resistance in Asia

L. Steur, Ritanjan Das

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    With the victory of capitalism and the end of the Cold War, almost all countries in the global south, including those still calling themselves “communist,” have become “transition” countries, competing to attract foreign direct investment and reform according to the strictures of global capitalism. Particularly interesting cases of “transition” are those states that explicitly legitimize their rule in terms of communist ideals, the general alliance of peasants and workers toward an egalitarian society, and whose ideological pillars historically include a pro-poor redistributive land reform. This forum debate focuses on three such states in Asia: the world’s longest-running democratically elected communist state of West Bengal (part of the Indian federation), the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and the People’s Republic of China. It focuses, more precisely, on the land struggles taking place in these states that have not embraced neo-liberalism ideologically but all see rural unrest increasing as peasant land is cleared for Special Economic Zones and other capitalist investment— usually purportedly aimed at “industrialization” and consequent employment creation but often driven by real estate speculation and elite consumption, accompanied by the creation of a huge reserve army of labor (Banerjee-Guha 2008). Even modernizing “communist” countries, where land expropriation is the order of the day, thus seem to be following the trend in contemporary capitalism that David Harvey (2005) conceptualizes as the shift in emphasis from expanded reproduction to accumulation by dispossession.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)67-72
    Number of pages6
    JournalFocaal European Journal of Anthropology
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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