If you’d like to hear more about how socialism actually exists in Laos, you can listen in to my recent interview for the Actually Existing Socialism podcast. It comes in two parts:
Toni and I discuss the revolutionary history of Laos, its entanglement with the Cold War, and how socialism operates on a cultural and political level in Laos today.
I don’t think neoliberalism and socialism are so radically different. I think they […] have a lot of kinship with each other. These are modernising approaches, these are about improving people’s lives. What they differ on is the importance of equality and the importance of a communal way of looking at things as opposed to individual. But these are not completely different world views.
Laos is known for being the most heavily bombed country in the world (per capita). We talk about the devastating impact the U.S. bombardment of Laos between 1964 and 1973 has had on the population until today. Trying to make sense of the atrocities of the Cold War era, I advocate for an anthropological approach:
What we can do is study particular people, particular people’s narratives of this time […] Going with the particular case study and going deep into a small group of people’s particular experiences I think is way to go to build up a picture of this general situation.
Which gets me to talk about Kandon, where I conducted fieldwork for my book Projectland:
Socialism, just as the alternative, was a pathway of immense sacrifice for these people. They talk often about how much they gave up in terms of their traditional way of life. And obviously gave up a lot during the initial struggle. A lot of people died, a lot of people were separated. There was a lot of suffering for the cause. But I think overall, they are very proud of what they did during the revolution.