Wednesday, April 28, 2010

where does class consciousness come from?

I don't like to mix emotions and morals with economic analysis since I think there are much bigger battles to be had than with those who are "silly" or "evil". So this is the closest this blog will ever get to such things. Let me just say that this quote is crucial to understanding my own views on these issues.

From "Mass Mobilisation and Ideological Transformation in the Vietnamese Land Reform Campaign," by Christine White in Journal of Contemporary Asia, Volume 13, pg. 84
In the case of the village cited above where 'outsiders' and 'insiders' did not get on, it was 'recounting of suffering' which initially brought the problem of the poor treatment of 'outsiders' into the open. During a village 'recounting of suffering' session, an 'insider', Mr Bach, was telling how poor he had been. His father, who had finally died of starvation, had been a village guard and had to sit on the ground in the communal house. 'We suffered as much as "outsiders".' At this point, the meeting went very quiet, for he had let the cat out of the bag: he had revealed to the outside cadres that whereas 'insiders' sat on the raised wooden floor in the dinh, the 'outsiders' sat on the ground. Finally a poor peasant 'insider' broke the ice with the comment, 'happiness does not come from sitting on the wooden floor'.

This led to a number of insiders telling of their sufferings. An old woman recounted that her father died when she was a young child and her mother sold her to the canton chief for money to buy a coffin. She had to work for the canton chief for 12 years as a servant without wages. The old woman wept as she told of the sufferings of the little servant girl that was her former self, and so did the listeners. According to the Nhan Dan report, outsiders realised that poor insiders had a terrible life.


  1. Blog post aside,
    I have a major problem with your assertion that you don't like to mix emotions and morals with economic analysis.
    The very choice of what economic topics to analyze is strongly influenced by our emotions and morals. To pretend like we can then make a disconnect between the emotional and moral choice of topic in our analysis of said topic is naive at best and at worst allows us to pass economic analysis as truth which is politically very dangerous.

  2. I agree that the topics we choose to analyze are strongly influenced by these things, though the analysis is a different story.

    Did slavery die for moral reasons? Is George Bush evil and should that determine what we do about him or what he represtents? Is there a moral imperative for full employment?

    I say "no" to all three questions above. Economic analysis is about exploring the economics and the politics (as they relate to the economics) behind economic phenomena. To the extent that economic analysis asserts truth of its propositions...? Sure, but any type of analysis rests on the assumption that the propositions that arise from it is truth. Even as a postmodern you are asserting that your method is the right method. "There is no such thing as absolute truth" is itself an assertion.