Monday, February 3, 2014

CFP: Illiberal Pluralism in SE Asia's Economic Reform Experience

Call for Papers
Illiberal Pluralism in SE Asia's Economic Reform Experience

Association of South-East Asian Studies in the UK ASEASUK
28th Annual Conference 2014
Brighton, UK
12-14 Sept. 2014

This panel explores alternative forms of contested politics and pluralism (other than what is generally known as Western liberal institutions) and governance in SE Asia, with emphasis on the market reforms that have swept the region over time.

Southeast Asia (and East Asia more broadly) has been a puzzle for students of governance and democratic transition. Defying theories of democratization and modernization, some of the region's poorer countries are democratic (Indonesia, Philippines, Timor Leste), while some of the wealthiest (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand) are illiberal polities – also called illiberal competitive authoritarian. A wide variety of expressions on the polyarchy scale between oppressive and responsive forms of governance exists across the region. Yet economic development has been strong across the region, with few exceptions (such as Myanmar/Burma, Laos).

This raises questions about widely held assumptions about liberal institutions of “Western” democracy. In the dominant discourse, liberal institutions provide the checks and balances to predatory coercive elites, and assure a sufficiently rational resource allocation for development to occur. In this view, only contested politics turns roving into stationary bandits, and subjects into citizens. And yet, in SE Asia, authoritarian, single-Party regimes persist, presiding over market reforms and rapid economic growth. Moreover, in the economic reform process, many of them have become less repressive and more responsive. Many have made economic performance the yardstick for the legitimacy of their rule. Some use forms of civil society as extensions of government, or as external reviewers and critics of proposed government policies.

Papers in this panel should address pluralism, contestation and widening political space in authoritarian regimes in SE Asia in the context of economic opening. How does economic decentralization, investment capital and labor scarcity change political space and bargaining power among and between interest groups? Does integration into global supply chains and investment regimes have the negative effect of weakening the state's power to protect its citizens, or the positive one of reducing the state's ability to coerce and seek rents? Is the “competitive” part of “illiberal competitive authoritarian” the key to both success in economic reforms and to the slow shift from the oppressive to the responsive end of the polyarchy scale?

Papers may reflect on SE Asian countries individually or in comparison; they may also compare the SE Asian experience to that of the economic development models of the NE Asian developmental states or China. Of particular interest are papers on Burma (due to its attempt to liberalize economy and polity simultaneously) and Malaysia (potentially a case of a move toward the oppressive end of the scale as the ruling coalition experiences a decline in its political fortunes).

Send abstracts of up to 500 words to Thomas Jandl, Deadline is February 28, 2014.

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