Known to the Greeks as opos or opion, as afiun in Persian and Arabic, and fuyung in Chinese, opium is at once a palliative and a poison. Its exotic origins, its literary associations, and the properties that are, often erroneously, attributed to it have ensured an ongoing air of mystery.
Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy reveals the long and fascinating history of a powerful and addictive drug and explores the changing fortunes of the modern-day illicit opium trade, especially in the remote regions of Asia. He answers key questions: Why have anti-drug policies failed despite four decades of increasing effort? And what are the shortcomings and limitations of forced eradication, alternative development, "silver bullets," and other quick fixes? In answering these questions, Chouvy draws upon geography, anthropology, politics, and development studies. He shows that the history of opium production is unexpectedly linked to the history of Afghanistan.
A compelling account of a narcotic as old as humanity, Opium offers powerful insights into the complex politics and economics of the poppy in the world today.
In laying out the economics and politics that tend to accompany opium farming, Chouvy encourages us to reevaluate our drug policy to focus less on the trade itself and more on its root causes, arguing that not until Afghanistan enjoys economic growth and a stable government will it be possible to curtail the drug trade.
This book traces the use of opium back to prehistoric times and sketches its complex and interesting history in Europe and especially in Asia, from ancient China and ancient Persia to modern times. It contends that opium production is intimately related to poverty and food insecurity, that eradication programs have inevitably failed to suppress opium production, and that the only way to reduce opium production is to address its economic and social sources by providing livelihoods superior to poppy production. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the labor-intensive production of opium is not highly lucrative to the poppy farmers; it does, however, compare favorably to alternative crops in the states where it is produced.
As a site of both the war on terror and the war on drugs, Afghanistan serves Chouvy as a test case for investigating the chicken-or-egg questions that riddle anti-drug policy. What comes first, poverty or poppy growth? Do local warlords spur opium production, or do the conditions that first allowed warlords to take power also give way to a drug trade? Is narcoterrorism—the notion that terrorists use drugs to fund insurgencies—actually behind violence in Afghanistan? …Opium’s insight lies in its reframing of such questions: despite what some politicians would like you to believe, Chouvy argues, these phenomena—violence, poverty, and drugs—can never be understood independently of each other.
Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy…is an expert on the politics of illicit drugs in Asia. This detailed, well-researched…account is uncompromising in its conclusions: the American war on drugs has been an expensive failure; and crop eradication hasn’t worked. Opium growing is a concomitant of weak or non-existent government, combined with civil war, poverty and food insecurity.
Timely and provocative… Chouvy meticulously recounts the poppy’s very political history, concluding that while illicit production tends to flourish in areas where violence restricts state control, most ‘Asian opium farmers grow poppies in order to combat poverty.’ …Exhaustively researched and cogently argued, Chouvy’s analysis of the geopolitics of narcotics should be required reading for policymakers, stakeholders, and concerned citizens.
This book establishes Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy as the successor to Alfred McCoy: he not only deciphers the long history of the opium poppy and the complex geopolitics of illicit drugs in Asia but also explains how and why decades of a costly ‘war on drugs’ have failed.
Drawing on his deep, unequaled understanding of the political economy of illicit drugs, Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy has produced an exemplary study of the complex forces driving illicit narcotics production in the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent regions of Asia. Through careful analysis of the historical, economic, and ecological forces behind the rapid growth of illicit drug production in Central and Southeast Asia, Chouvy shows how and why the coercive crop eradication schemes favored by the United States and United Nations have failed in the past and will fail again in the future. His evidence is unassailable and his argument is compelling. The social costs of forty years of failed ‘drug wars’ have been high and the gains precious few. After a full century of failed drug prohibition, 1909 to 2009, Chouvy makes a persuasive case for an alternative approach.
The illicit trade in opiates is one of the great paradoxes of the modern age. How is it that after nearly a century of concerted international efforts by most of the major global powers, the illicit trade in heroin and opium has continued to grow? Chouvy’s fascinating and well-documented study of the politics of the poppy in Asia exposes the many dimensions of this issue. Briefly tracing the history of the opium trade, Chouvy draws on his extensive knowledge of the current situation to focus on the rise and fall of the ‘Golden Triangle’ and the ‘migration’ of its epicenter from Southeast Asia to the ‘Golden Crescent’ of Iran–Afghanistan–Pakistan. He follows the shifting tides of global politics, the Cold War and the twisted politics of failed states to show the manner in which agents of the US government and other states play against one another to seek ‘higher goals’ while paving the way for shadowy drug lords, corrupt politicians and generals to expand their profits. At the same time, at home, the governments of the U.S., the European states and others pursue draconian policies in their wars on drugs. Chouvy’s engaging prose and clear focus make it an accessible and interesting read. This book is an excellent companion reader for university courses on imperialism and globalization.
- 272 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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