Vietnam is a land whose features change dramatically within short distances--from mountains and high plateaus to coastal plains and inland swamps. To the south, the large delta formed by the Mekong and Lesser river systems inches forward yearly into the South China Sea. This delta, while hardly typical of all Vietnam, is one of the most fertile rice-producing regions of Southeast Asia. Its importance lies not only in the substantial contribution this area can, and will, provide, but it is also the area of most recent settlement by the Vietnamese. The study of its institutions reveals much about the prospects for social and economic change.
The analysis of economic change in underdeveloped areas is beset with many complex questions: what factors account for economic activity? Among many signs of change, which are significant? How may one predict the probabilities of future economic development? Rural Vietnam: The Small World of Khanh Hau answers these questions for a Vietnamese rural community, in a detailed study that emphasizes the economic and non-economic factors that shape its present level of material well-being and its chances for future development.
The author identifies a variety of forces that influence the economic activity of individuals and finds that these farmers display many more traits of rational economic calculation than is usually assumed to be the case among the peasantry. The book is thus at least a partial refutation of those who hold that village life is so bound by tradition and immersed in lethargy that it cannot be subjected to the kind of economic analyses and policies developed in industrial societies. During the Vietnam war period, Khanh Hau was subject to pressures from far beyond its boundaries, and this study illuminates the problems the conflict engendered throughout Vietnam.