Since the mid- to late- 1980s, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) have gradually and unevenly opened their economies to capitalist relations of accumulation. Both countries have done so by granting state land concessions to private capital for resource extraction and land commodification projects, particularly since the early 2000s. Yet, resource capitalism has manifested in distinct ways in both places due to the ways in which capital has interacted with unique pre-capitalist political-economic and social relations as well as the diverse political reactions of Lao and Myanmar people to capitalist transformations. In this paper, we analyze such differences through a conceptualization of ‘variegated transitions’, an extension of the variegated capitalism framework, which investigates the political economic transitions towards capitalism in marginalized, resource extractive countries of the Global South. In Myanmar, the transition from military to democratic rule has been marked by protests and land occupations combined with center-periphery fragmentation and ongoing civil wars, all of which have led to a heavily contested process of land concession granting. In contrast, a stable, comparatively centralized political system in Laos that restrains popular protest has enabled an expanding regime of land concessions for resource extraction projects, albeit hemmed in at the edges by sporadic, localized forms of resistance and appeals to the state.

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Environment and Planning A: international journal of urban and regional research
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Kenney-Lazar, M. (Miles), & Mark, S. (2020). Variegated transitions: Emerging forms of land and resource capitalism in Laos and Myanmar. Environment and Planning A: international journal of urban and regional research. doi:10.1177/0308518X20948524