Development and differentiation in rural Thailand : a case from the central region
This thesis is a contribution to the study of rural development and social change. The economy, polity and society of rural Thailand has undergone enormous transformations in the past century and a half. These centre on the penetration of rural communities by structures of state and capital. An important aspect of this is the emergence of 'differentiation' (or 'stratification'): i.e., the development of disparities between the economic status and circumstances of households in the same locality. This thesis reports data pertaining to intra-village differentiation which were collected during an anthropological study of a rural community in Central Thailand. Rural differentiation in Thailand is considered from a number of related perspectives. Macro-level, historical transformations of the Thai countryside are discussed, and an interpretive model of the consequent stratification discernible in the village study site is presented. Ongoing processes of differentiation, which focus on the monopolisation of local resources by rural elites in the context of the developing village, are delineated. Data pertaining to informants' economic related decisions and behaviours reveal that different strata of villagers hold dissimilar 'economic attitudes': rich villagers' economic decision-making accords with Western notions of economic 'rationality' , whilst poor villagers tended to be both non-accumulatory and apparently reckless in the economic arena. Middle ranking villagers tended toward economic quiescence. This phenomenon is explained by a reconstruction of some elements of poor villagers' underlying system of values of beliefs. The consequences of intra-village differentiation for social identities and relations are discussed by reference to the 'class hypothesis': i.e., that the continued experience of increasing differentiation gives rise to class identities and, hence, class based social relations. Data suggest that, whilst stratification informs social identities and interactions to some extent, at present this is over-ridden by other, noneconomic factors.