I read about five of these and then stopped....got what I needed. The essays are highly introspective, mostly workmanlike but effective. That being sa...moreI read about five of these and then stopped....got what I needed. The essays are highly introspective, mostly workmanlike but effective. That being said, the essay by Fernando on cliometrics (CH.3) is outstanding...his writing vibrates off the page...driven by and conveying the excitement of years spent uncovering layers of documentation that other historians missed or ignored, because he asked a different question...
This looks like it may eventually become a classic global survey of the entire cocoa commodity chain during the 'long nineteenth century'. The (mostly...moreThis looks like it may eventually become a classic global survey of the entire cocoa commodity chain during the 'long nineteenth century'. The (mostly) minimalist writing style is probably not going to strike a chord with general readers, but there is plenty to chew on in here - archival sources and secondary literature in at least five languages were consulted. Each chapter concludes with useful suggestions for further research.(less)
This comparative political economy approach to Thailand's 'economic diversification' and 'upgrading' is very, very structuralist; more emphasis on (in...moreThis comparative political economy approach to Thailand's 'economic diversification' and 'upgrading' is very, very structuralist; more emphasis on (institutional) economic history than political history; more analytical weight on proximate causes rather than deeper historical antecedents; and certainly more interest in growth than redistribution. The historical narratives have been clearly bent to fit the emphasis on institutions and economic growth, but in the process a great deal of the essence of politics - both domestic and international - has been shelved. What remains almost seems like an afterthought, with some very jagged edges left flapping. Like the neoclassical economic strand from which it descends, the book is not as normatively neutral as it appears to be at first glance. Some political economists may prefer it this way of course...each to his own. (less)
This book, just published three months ago, has already been receiving some very warm informal reviews on the academic grapevine. Based on what little...moreThis book, just published three months ago, has already been receiving some very warm informal reviews on the academic grapevine. Based on what little I know of agrarian change in Southeast Asia, it has been a really informative introductory read.
(Coming immediately after having read Davis’ ‘Planet of Slums’ (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...) it is also interesting how well the two books complement each other; like siblings raised by the same parents, now living different yet interconnected lives. Seems pretty obvious that ideally the way forward is not to focus solely on either rural or urban change, but to try and see how the two co-exist at different scales.)
The book's main argument surrounding land conflicts is straightforward and can be gleaned from the synopsis. It is the elegant framework used to map out these different land conflicts, and to a lesser extent, the wealth of case studies drawn from Southeast Asia to support this framework, which are truly eye-opening. The book basically adopts a matrix format. For those who thrive on tight, structured lists this is a godsend; land conflicts can be an absolute nightmare to narrate coherently because so many different, fluctuating variables are usually in play.
On one axis are four 'powers' of exclusion from access to land; markets, legitimacy, regulation and force. The other axis consists of six identified processes of agrarian transition in Southeast Asia - land licensing and zoning, conservation agendas, crop booms, post-agrarian 'urbanisation', contests for land between social intimate neighbours and kin, and social movements against land exclusions. A chapter is devoted to each process, and the four exclusionary powers are discussed repeatedly within.
The range of case studies is fascinating and frankly quite overwhelming. Actors at all scales are covered: villagers, state officials, NGOs, donor agencies, IFIs, social movements and agribusinesses (both local and foreign). The analytical emphasis between state and class seems quite balanced, agency is recognised in both and extensively recounted in one case study after another. I don't know enough of agrarian history in general to know much about what other important studies were left out.
While the book is excellent at identifying the more proximate, overarching factors for land conflicts, this sort of macro 'mapping' exercise inevitably means that in-depth contextual knowledge of each Southeast Asian state's socio-economic history has to be sought elsewhere. This is fine as long as one knows what to expect in advance. In addition, the case studies, while extremely wide-ranging, have been chosen to illustrate the relevance of the four 'powers' at work. From the viewpoint of comparative social research the book's contribution to comparative politics, political economy etc is thus more limited; one could substitute many cases from outside the region to flesh out the same matrix. This is both a positive and negative I guess. The conceptual framework can certainly travel and be used by others, but it doesn't really systematically explore anything specific about Southeast Asia's political economy or the differences within the region. The latter is of course a very difficult thing to do and shouldn't detract from the high heuristic value of the mapping exercise itself.
The other issue which raised some flags is that the four 'powers' of exclusion from land do not really seem like powers to me; they look more like dimensions, or mechanisms via which deeper social processes unfold. This is even more evident when the concluding chapter alludes to four other powers of exclusion in passing: environmental change, technological development, political relationships/alliances , and inertia (pp. 197). Interesting but certainly raises some eyebrows. There is a clear attempt to limit the way in which power is conceptualised and defined in this book (and the authors admit as much on pp. 15). My current knowledge of debates around the philosophy of power is very rudimentary. Is power an apolitical thing, with a more political original source, or part of the very essence of being itself? Is it an instrument to be wielded, or an adjective to describe a more general state of affairs? I don't even know if I'm asking the right questions. The book's concept of legitimacy as a dimension of land conflict is also, I suspect, up for questioning. I don't know whether this is all petty semantic nitpicking or an opening for more serious criticism. I'll have to revisit these issues later. (less)
I read this for the relevant sections on the interplay between extractive industries, institutional legacies of social corporatism and the internation...moreI read this for the relevant sections on the interplay between extractive industries, institutional legacies of social corporatism and the international economy (Chs 1 & 8).
Will come back to the rest later. Hints of some useful discussions about 'mimicry' in consumption (of both materials and ideas from the affluent West) in Chs 5 & 6.(less)
Does what it sets out to do, and does it well. However, its bias towards analyzing European polities is telling. This tendency is becoming increasingl...moreDoes what it sets out to do, and does it well. However, its bias towards analyzing European polities is telling. This tendency is becoming increasingly anachronistic as economic power continues shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific region. Presumably the nature of statehood in this region will become more important for the future of practical politics, and this will also be reflected in the choice of readings that politics departments set for university students. Perhaps even more so if the European Union project fails to make any further progress in its aims...(less)
This is fine work; the ethnographies are diverse and rich in primary detail. The focus is mainly on the birth and expansion of production systems in S...moreThis is fine work; the ethnographies are diverse and rich in primary detail. The focus is mainly on the birth and expansion of production systems in Southeast Asia. Which will prove useful for referencing and comparison later. There is some acknowledgement of changing consumption patterns and shifting market demand (eg. the chapters by Gellert, Vandergeest, Barney and Fougeres) but for the most part the discussion is centered on the complex relations between commodity production and agrarian societies. (less)
This second edition is a gem. I have read in the following order, Chs. 1, 7, 2, 3, and 4, leaving the remaining Chapters 5, 6 and 8 to a later date.
Th...moreThis second edition is a gem. I have read in the following order, Chs. 1, 7, 2, 3, and 4, leaving the remaining Chapters 5, 6 and 8 to a later date.
Things I found particularly useful so far: - The discussion on whether one should approach research projects primarily from the point of view of the problems they address or through leading questions, and the false dichotomy that can arise (Ch. 2, pp. 15-16) - The simplified model of the research process, without the hypothesis (pp. 17) and with one present (Ch. 3, 27-28) - Structuring the proposal into three basic layers: the whats (the research subject matter), the hows (methodology) and the whys (relevance to theory, practice and policy) (pp. 17) - the hierarchy of concepts - research area => research topic => general research questions => specific research questions => data collection questions (Ch. 3).
Detailed content headers are provided at the beginning of each chapter in numbered sub-headings. This makes it very useful for drilling straight down to a particular issue if ongoing work on a proposal is running into problems.
Perhaps this is all blindingly obvious to others more intelligent and experienced, but Punch's typologies and frameworks are a lifesaver for me, especially for someone trying to structure and distill insights from a decade's worth of accumulated literature into what will probably end up as five page single-sided proposal on some grey-beard's desk...
I also found Delamont et al's (2004) 'Supervising the Doctorate' through this book, which has a cracker of a chapter on tips for putting together literature reviews.
Now to actually try and put all this stuff into practice...(less)
GR has listed this down as one book instead of two different editions; both are for the most part different works altogether (though their underlying...moreGR has listed this down as one book instead of two different editions; both are for the most part different works altogether (though their underlying thrust is the same). They are ten years apart (1993, 2002) and some of the conceptual and empirical focus has shifted since. Neither book can really be read alone. Both are devoted to a search for a Grand Unifying Theory of Social Science with re: to the political economy of consumption aka the 'systems of provision' approach. The writing is clearly pitched at a very advanced audience; not just those familiar with marxist political economy but also historians, cultural theorists, psychologists, economists, anthropologists, sociologists and so forth. Either Ben Fine is a genius from another planet...or I am just thick...or both....or neither. Maybe things will make more sense in a couple more years' time. Maybe.(less)
30 Jan 2014: I re-read this yesterday and realised how much I had missed the first time round. There are still flaws, but these are mostly I think pol...more30 Jan 2014: I re-read this yesterday and realised how much I had missed the first time round. There are still flaws, but these are mostly I think political ones rather than matters of technical knowledge and analysis. It is probably a reflection of my increasing sympathy with anarchistic views - up to a point.(less)