Ideology and water control in Mekong states

Is Irrigationalism a Dominant Ideology in Securing Hydrotopia in Mekong Nation States?” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1577903) is an article by independent scholar David J. H. Blake from Taunton in the UK.


Blake’s abstract states:

For over six decades, grandiose proposals calling for significant expansion of public irrigation schemes have been commonplace throughout the Mekong region, irrespective of the political configuration or developmental stage of each state. From Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea to Thailand’s military and quasi-democratic regimes, irrigation has figured prominently on development agendas. Mainstream narratives around irrigation are embedded in a technocentric, developmental and nationalistic discourse, incorporating socially pre-conditioned beliefs and values that closely reflect the rhetoric of state-linked elites. This article critically examines some of the narratives employed by key actors and groups to justify ongoing practices and processes of irrigation development, focusing on Thailand and Cambodia. It seeks to look beyond conventional econometric and instrumental drivers, to consider other socio-political factors that may account for irrigation’s critical role as a “technology of control,” but which are rarely examined across comparative national contexts. Further, it proposes a dominant ideology of irrigation developmentalism or “irrigationalism” as a useful concept in explaining certain aspects of contemporary social power in these nations. State-led irrigation may be perceived as a utopian intervention that aids in the emergence of an effective monopolistic authority and control by bureaucracies and other powerful groups over development decision-making processes and silencing opposition.


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