Hedwig Amelia Waters

Feb 6, 2024

Moral Economic Transitions in the Mongolian Borderlands

A Proportional Share

University College London Press 2023

In the early 1990s, Mongolia began a transition from socialism to a market democracy. In the process, the country became more than ever dependent on international mining revenue. Nearly thirty years later, many of Mongolia's poor and rural feel that, rather than share in the prosperity the transition was supposed to spread, they have been forgotten.

Moral Economic Transitions in the Mongolian Borderlands (UCL Press, 2023) analyzes this period of change from the viewpoint of the rural township of Magtaal on the Chinese border. After the end of socialism, the population of this resource-rich area found itself without employment or state institutions yet surrounded by lush nature and mere kilometers from the voracious Chinese market. A two-tiered resource-extractive political-economic system developed. At the same time as large-scale, formal, legally sanctioned conglomerates arrived to extract oil and other resources, local residents grew increasingly dependent on the Chinese-funded informal, illegal cross-border wildlife trade. More than a story about rampant capitalist extraction in the resource frontier, this book intimately details the complex inner worlds, moral ambiguities, and emergent collective politics constructed by individuals who feel caught in political-economic shifts that are largely outside of their control.

Hedwig Amelia Waters is a Horizon Europe European Research Area Postdoctoral Fellow at Palacky University in the Czech Republic.

Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network.

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