Consuming doi moi: Development and middle class consumption in Vietnam

Arve Hansen


Since doi moi, Vietnam has undergone a variety of social and economic transformations. Among the most obvious are found in the realm of consumption. The new openness to international trade and foreign investments has radically increased the availability of goods. And new opportunities for income have led to increased purchasing power in most social strata, although to very different extents. High-consuming urban middle classes are emerging rapidly-Vietnam’s middle class is indeed considered the fastest growing in Southeast Asia-symbolising economic progress and modernisation on the one hand and growing inequalities and environmental unsustainability on the other. These changes are reflected in surging consumption of a wide variety of goods, from household appliances and food items to vehicles and luxury products. This paper approaches the new ‘socialist consumer classes’ partly through the particular political-economic contexts that have fostered them, but mainly through the consumption patterns and consumer culture that define them. Combining secondary statistical data with insights from ethnographic fieldwork, the paper discusses the drivers of changing consumption patterns and investigates the new roles of goods in everyday middle-class practices in Hanoi, in turn using consumption as a lens to analyse post-doi moi society.

Received 2nd April 2017; Revised 25th April 2017; Accepted 29th April  2017


Middle class; consumption; practice theory; doi moi; Vietnam; development.

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