*The Art of Not Being Governed*

The subtitle is An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia and the author is James C. Scott of Yale University.  Here is a summary from the Preface:

…I argue that the [Southeast Asian] hill peoples are best understood as runaway, fugitive, maroon communities who have, over the course of two millennia, been fleeing the oppressions of state-making projects in the valleys — slavery, conscription taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare.  Most of the areas in which they reside may be aptly called shatter zones or zones of refuge.

Virtually everything about these people's livelihoods, social organizations, ideologies, and (more controversially) even their largely oral cultures, can be read as strategic positionings designed to keep the state at arm's length.  Their physical dispersion in rugged terrain, their mobility, their cropping practices, their kinship structure, their pliable ethnic identities, and their devotion to prophetic, millenarian leaders effectively serve to avoid incorporations into states and to prevent states from springing up among them.  The particular state that most of them have been evading has been the precocious Han-Chinese state.

Highly recommended, this is a book Gordon Tullock would love.  So far it has received surprisingly little publicity but it strikes me as essential reading about Afghanistan as well.  Here is a much earlier Crooked Timber post on Scott.


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