Environmental Protection in the Hands of the State: Authoritarian Environmentalism and Popular Perceptions in Vietnam

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Vietnam’s uncompromising economic growth priorities under Communist Party leadership have left environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity in its wake, and the country is in many respects at a critical threshold. Even so, recent debate has emphasized that state or “authoritarian” environmentalism may have political advantages in determined and coordinated environmental response, although the downside may be a denial of personal responsibility and low public awareness. Building on a series of field studies in rural and highland Vietnam, this article puts everyday environmental perceptions and practices into the perspective of long-term authoritarian governance. It explores the resulting hierarchization of state–society relations and fragmentation of social forces, in which environmental action, responsibility, and ethics primarily emanate from the state sphere. It argues that authoritarianism has contributed to a critical disjuncture between shared norms and the objective conditions of the biophysical environment, as comprehensive state dominance hampers autonomous value change in society.
TidsskriftJournal of Environment & Development
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)171-195
Antal sider25
StatusUdgivet - 14 feb. 2020


  • Popular perceptions
  • Rural development
  • State enviromentalism
  • Vietnam
  • authoritarianism

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