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Class influences on life chances in Post-Reform Vietnam

Chu, L. (2016). Class influences on life chances in Post-Reform Vietnam. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This study provides a critical analysis of the influence of social class on life chances in post-reform Vietnam. As the country underwent a profound structural transition from a centrally planned to a market-oriented economy in the mid-1980s, social class gradually replaced political class as a major source of inequality. Knowledge about this phenomenon is rudimentary – not least because of the continuing power of state ideology in contemporary Vietnam.

Throughout the investigation, Bourdieu’s framework of class reproduction guides both a quantitative analysis of the Survey Assessment of Vietnamese Youth 2010 and a qualitative research of 39 respondents in the Red River Delta region, including young people of the first post-reform generation – now in their 20s and 30s – and their parents. The study discusses the ways in which class determines the ability of parents to transmit different resources to their children, focusing on those that are usable and valued in the fields of education and labour. It finds that, across several areas of social life in contemporary Vietnam, implicit class-based discrimination is disguised and legitimised by explicit and seemingly universal ‘meritocratic’ principles.

The study makes a number of original contributions to sociology, three of which are particularly important. (1) Empirically, it breaks new ground for a sociological understanding of both the constitution and the development of class inequalities in contemporary Vietnam. (2) Methodologically, it offers numerous useful examples of mixed-methods integration. (3) Theoretically, it proposes to think with, against and beyond some of the most relevant Bourdieusian research on this topic. The empirical application of Bourdieu’s framework in toto, as opposed to a more customary partial appropriation, facilitates comprehensive insights into: class-specified practices as governed and conditioned by internalised powers and structural resources; the multidimensionality of class-based advantages and disadvantages; and the causative transmission and activation of capital across and within generations.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
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