Migrants and modernisation : a study of change in Lao society

Barber, Martin (Martin John Philip)

Sociology; Anthropology; Folklore; Human services
May 1979

Thesis or dissertation

© 1979 Martin John Philip Barber. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This thesis focusses on the interaction between rural-to-urban migration on the one hand, and 'modernisation' on the other, in the fields of economic, political and social relations in Lao society.

The introduction presents the concepts and research methods used and the design of the thesis. It emphasises the aim of the work, to describe, through history, aspects of the development of various economic political and social relations in rural and urban Laos. In this context particular emphasis is given to the relationship between ideologies, expectations and practice. Myth and ritual are seen as areas of communication which legitimise an institutionalised order of inequality.

Following a general historical and geographical background (Chapte 2), a critical review of the existing literature on Lao society (Chapter 3) and an introduction to the two research villages, one rural and one urban (Chapter 4), the next three chapters form the core of the thesis, offering a detailed analysis of, successively, economic, political and social relations within the rural and urban villages under the influence of modernisation.

The section on the rural economy describes its historical development and analyses the influence of traditional ideologies on modern economic practice. The section on the urban economy shows how the economies of modern Lao towns developed as a result of factors external to Laos itself, while individual participants still maintain contact with the rural economic sector.

In the study of political relations (Chapter 6) the importance of competing ideologies and the complexity of the relationship between ideals and practice become most clearly evident. The close link between town, state and monarchy on the one hand, is contrasted with the political ideology of the village which grows out of the villagers' primary concern to define and control their relationships with natural forces. The study of rural and urban social relations (Chapter 7) shows, through examples of a few key social activities, how the influence of modem practice has affected the development of social ideals, as well as behaviour.

The concluding chapter brings together the analysis regarding the interrelationship between migration and modernisation, and shows how the traditional economic and social constraints governing 'appropriate' and prestige-giving redistribution of 'wealth', which had emphasised the principle of cooperation, have given way under the influence of 'modernisation , to economic motivations which emphasise competition. In modern Laos the ways in which people talk or think about their society derive to an important degree from a corpus of traditional ideology based on ritual communications. The ways in which they act within their society however, change in response to imported influences.

Department of Sociology, The University of Hull
Hill, Lewis G.
Sponsor (Organisation)
Social Science Research Council (Great Britain); University of Hull; Leverhulme Trust
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