Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Nyerere Tried Park's South Korea Achieved?

"The regime uniformly identified as responsible for establishing the South Korean development miracle, that of General Park Chung Hee, counted on South Korea’s farmers and rural based small producers as a key political base and cultural reference point. During his first decade in office, when South Korea’s development path initially was set, Park did not rely upon chaebols or other large industrialists, foreign investors, or U.S. military advisors, all of whom spent the first several years repudiating Park’s administration and criticizing the nature and direction of his development policies. Rather, Park initially developed his industrial policies with small rural producers in mind. With modest farmers backing his regime at almost every turn, Park became a heavy-handed disciplinarian of bankers and large industrial capitalists, who were soon goaded (if not forced) to generate sufficient industrial export earnings so the South Korean state might foster the growth of a dynamic agricultural sector and a strong rural middle class of farmers. As a Latin Americanist I knew this story demanded further attention. I had not read an account of successful late development in which small rural proprietors seemed so important to a government’s larger developmental vision and to the content of its industrial policies. Nor had I seen a focus on small-scale rural producers to explain the uniqueness of the East Asian model, even among those scholars who had already identified the state’s disciplining of capital as key to South Korea’s successes. To be sure, scholars such as Alice Amsden and Robert Bates had highlighted the state’s disciplinary measures, but little had been said about the social origins or political foundations of this extensive disciplinary capacity. Tantalized by these findings and the revisionist theoretical possibilities of focusing on small rural farmers, I immediately turned to the history of Park’s ascent to power. The evidence shows that he was a charismatic leader, a provincial middle-class son of schoolteachers born in the countryside who valued rural life more generally. Park viewed South Korea’s urban populations as overly acquisitive and insufficiently austere; he particularly despised bankers; and he viewed most large-scale industrial capitalists and their financier counterparts as pampered and unworthy social groups whose speculative impulses and accumulation instincts should be harnessed in the service of national development. Far from envisioning South Korea as a leading industrial nation preparing itself to compete and consume more in a world of major industrial manufacturers, Park’s own preferred model for South Korean development was not a big industrial power like the United States, Germany, or even Japan, but the bucolic, rural middle-class country of Denmark. Denmark? What Latin American country would have tried to build its economy using this small and relatively modest country as a guide? How much of this owed to Park’s own idiosyncrasies as opposed to a realistic reading of the country’s developmental possibilities and constraints?Park’s constant invocation of Denmark as a model further reinforced my resolve to consider the possibility that the South Korean state’s desire and capacity to discipline capital, and thus achieve such great developmental gains, rested on rural middle-class foundations. But then again, if these modest goals of rural development really were Park’s aim, and he relied so strongly on a rural middle-class ethos of discipline to sustain this vision, why did South Korea end up looking so heavily urbanized and industrialized, with a relatively weak rural sector and a dominant class of industrialists, and not at all like the northern European agricultural welfare state that served as his inspiration? This was a story that had to be told, not only for its own sake, but in comparison to other late industrializers." - Diane Davis (2004) on Discipline and Development: Middle Classes and Prosperity in East Asia and Latin America at http://www.cambridge.org/servlet/file/store6/item2376513/version1/item_9780521807487_excerpt.pdf cf. http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/07487/sample/9780521807487ws.pdf

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