Interpreting the Politics of Southeast Asia

Debates in Parallel Universes

Authored by: Richard Robison

Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415494274
eBook ISBN: 9780203155011
Adobe ISBN: 9781136579196


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Among the critical questions that have defined debates about the politics of Southeast Asia, three have been especially enduring. One of these asks why liberal politics has proven so fragile across the region and why various forms of authoritarianism or electoral politics based on one-party rule or money politics have been so pervasive. A second question is concerned with the relationship between market capitalism and political institutions and ideas; in particular why various forms of interventionist state and predatory systems of governance have survived and flourished despite the embrace of market capitalism. A third is concerned with more recent patterns of decentralization of authority, the spread of democratic reforms and the participation of social movements and local actors in the political arena. It is a matter of contention whether these developments signal the long-awaited rise of a progressive and self-reliant civil society or the consolidation of new social and economic oligarchies and mechanisms for control on the part of the state.

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