The Burma Road to Poverty

The Burma Road to Poverty

The Burma Road to Poverty

The Burma Road to Poverty

Synopsis

Going beyond standard approaches to development, the author looks to Burmese culture and history for the deeper sources of contemporary socialand political upheavals and links the economic collapse of the country to the attempts of successive military dictatorships to impose despotism where skilled management and a degree of freedom were needed. Based on field research, interviews, and Maung's first-hand knowledge of Burmese culture, this analysis contributes a balanced perspective and new information crucial to our understanding of a society that has been largely closed to outsiders for more than two decades.

Excerpt

When the Chinese military killed students calling for democracy in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, the World, or at least the West, reacted in shock, but the West had paid little note to the massacre of a greater absolute number of students (and others) and greater violence in Myanmar (then Burma) during five months of the previous year. Yet a student of political structure may take special interest in the modern history of Burma. Mya Maung traces the most recent two decades of that history--not only the facts and the results of the military takeover, but the way in which the military leaders seemed to believe that the economy as well as the people ought to behave as they wished. Though Mya Maung's graduate study and then professional work have been in economics and finance, the present volume is distinguished not so much by analysis in those fields as by analysis of why the military leaders thought it would be effective to behave as they did. They did not behave as all dictators do. This is a study of "why Burmese leaders behave like Burmese" (my phrases, not his). It is this discussion which in my view is more intriguing and penetrating than that in any of the several other studies of recent Burma. A student of political structure may well ponder this question, and try to apply the answer at which he arrives to other countries that puzzle him.

Everett E. Hagen Massachusetts Institute of Technology . . .

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