The Myth of a Centralised Socialist State in Vietnam: What Kind of a Myth?

Martin Gainsborough


Through a case study of Vietnam, the article explores the view that there is a tendency to overstate the degree to which there is a coherent central body, namely the state, directing the country. Exploring this myth, it argues that there is a tendency to reify the state, even in writing which is attentive to localism and the diversity of societal actors at play in Vietnamese political life. The article argues that the myth of the central state endures because there are domestic and foreign political interests that depend on it. However, more fundamentally, the myth endures because of the power of the state to colonise our minds such that even when the empirical data does not fit with the idea of the state, we make it fit. The article’s findings have implications for the study of politics far beyond the Vietnamese case.

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