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Strategic Group Formation in the Mekong Delta - The Development of a Modern Hydraulic Society

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  • Evers, Hans-Dieter
  • Benedikter, Simon

Abstract

The lower Mekong Delta, one of the largest river deltas in Asia, is a landscape shaped by the waters of the Mekong River that flows, as last part of its long way from the Tibetan Plateau to the South Chinese Sea, through a dense river and canal network in the Southwest of Vietnam. People in this area are, traditionally, exposed to a water-shaped environment and have lived for generations in adaptation to their natural surrounding without much human interference into the complex natural hydraulic system of the delta. However, this has changed dramatically during recent decades when hydraulic management started to become a key issue for the development of the lower Mekong Delta constantly, in particular with respect to the agricultural sector, which is the backbone of the delta’s economy. After the Second Indochinese War ended in 1975 the delta started to shift from human adaption to human control, transforming itself into what Wittfogel has described as a hydraulic society. This was mainly due to the new socialist government’s policy of rapid agricultural extension and growing endeavours in hydraulic management for fostering irrigated rice production. By now, in many places of the delta hydraulic works such as additional canals, dykes and sluices have been set up, constructed for regulating water flows. Technical innovations in hydraulic management and agricultural production have not only had significant impact on the delta’s environment and ecology, but also have triggered social transformation, in particular the appearance of new social groups struggling for access to resources and power. This paper intends to analyzes recent trends of social development and water management in the Mekong Delta from a scientific approach that is based on two social theories, firstly “strategic group analysis”, and secondly selected core aspects of Wittfogel’s social theory of “hydraulic society”. By presenting recently collected data, it is illustrated how the Mekong Delta has been transformed into a modern hydraulic society, in which certain strategic groups emerged as a consequence of growing activities in hydraulic management and agricultural-based economic growth. More specifically, the paper aims to give an overview of strategic group development in the delta by putting a strong focus on the process of forming a state bureaucracy of hydraulic management and the appearance of hydraulic construction companies as its clients. The paper shows how the strategic alliance between both groups has increased the chances for mutually appropriating government funds spent on hydraulic works and how this has caused ecologically and socially far-reaching impacts for the Mekong Delta.

Suggested Citation

  • Evers, Hans-Dieter & Benedikter, Simon, 2009. "Strategic Group Formation in the Mekong Delta - The Development of a Modern Hydraulic Society," MPRA Paper 13796, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:13796
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Harris, David N., 2006. "Water management in public irrigation schemes in Vietnam," Impact Assessment Series (IAS) 113170, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. Husmann, Christine & von Braun, Joachim & Badiane, Ousmane & Akinbamijo, Yemi & Abiodun, Fatunbi Oluwole & Virchow, Detlef, 2015. "Tapping Potentials of Innovation for Food Security and Sustainable Agricultural Growth: An Africa-Wide Perspective," Working Papers 228855, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    2. Evers, Hans-Dieter & Genschick, Sven & Schraven, Benjamin, 2009. "Constructing Epistemic Landscapes: Methods of GIS-Based Mapping," MPRA Paper 17135, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. von Braun, Joachim & Gerber, Nicolas & Mirzabaev, Alisher & Nkonya, Ephraim M., 2013. "The Economics of Land Degradation," Working Papers 147910, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    4. François Fortier & Tran Thi Thu Trang, 2013. "Agricultural Modernization and Climate Change in Vietnam's Post-Socialist Transition," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 44(1), pages 81-99, January.
    5. Mbaye, Linguere Mously & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2016. "Natural Disasters and Human Mobility," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 10(1), pages 37-56, November.
    6. Eguavoen, I., 2011. "Digging, damming or diverting? Small-scale irrigation in the Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia," IWMI Working Papers H044597, International Water Management Institute.
    7. Schädler, Manuel & Gatzweiler, Franz W., 2013. "Institutional Environments for Enabling Agricultural Technology Innovations: The role of Land Rights in Ethiopia, Ghana, India and Bangladesh," Working Papers 159373, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    8. Iskandar, Deden Dinar & Gatzweiler, Franz, 2014. "An optimization model for technology adoption of marginalized smallholders: Theoretical support for matching technological and institutional innovations," Working Papers 182495, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    9. Baumuller, Heike, 2013. "Mobile Technology Trends and their Potential for Agricultural Development," Working Papers 160565, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    10. Siriwardane, Rapti & Winands, Sarah, 2013. "Between hope and hype: Traditional knowledge(s) held by marginal communities," Working Papers 151401, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Vietnam; Mekong Delta; strategic groups; hydraulic society; social transformation and power; water management; hydraulic bureaucracy;

    JEL classification:

    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics

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