AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 649

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Session 649: State, Stability and Reform II

Beyond the Developmental State? Post-Crisis Developmental Regimes in Malaysia and Argentina
Christopher Wylde, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Malaysia

Post-crisis Argentina has been characterised by sustained growth, facilitated by strong private investment and fiscal and current account surpluses. This impressive recovery was in the context of an active industrial policy and the maintenance of a sound macroeconomic environment. Such a recovery has been characterised within a developmental regime framework, which represents an extension of the traditional developmental state literature. In the context of global financial crisis Malaysian political economy is at a turning point. This paper will look to draw on experiences of Argentinean recovery and apply them to the Malaysian context. Through such an approach the potential for a renewed developmental regime in Malaysia will be analysed, exploring the prospect for sustained development in the post crisis world. Such an approach will also, symbiotically, further explore the value of a developmental regime model to political economy.

Economic Decentralization and Central Political Control in Vietnam
Thomas Jandl, American University, USA

Vietnam's economic success is founded on an uneven development model. Almost half of foreign investment goes to the Southeast region, and out of 63 provinces, only 11 have budget surpluses and support the transfer payments the center makes to the rest of the country. Such uneven distribution of the benefits of growth has emboldened the provincial elites in the successful provinces, as evidenced by repeated fence breaking – pushing of the envelope of provincial authority. By what mechanisms does the central government keep control in such a situation of lopsided economic growth? It has been argued about China that the power over promotion and demotion gives the government control over local officials. In this paper, however, I argue that in Vietnam, provincial officials indeed do gain independence from the center through economic success, as evidenced in their promotion to central position not as a result of obedience to the center, but of successful breach of central doctrine. I demonstrate a harmony of interest among provincial and central elites groups and international investors, and a subsequent lasting shift of power from purely coercive elites to those who can maintain social peace and continued party rule through continued economic progress.

Challenges in Deepening Democracy in Indonesia
Kacung K. Marijan, Independent Scholar, Indonesia

The collapse of New Order government was overwhelmingly welcomed around Indonesia in early 1998. Many people hoped that the life of Indonesian would be better politically and economically under democratic political system. This is in line with the argument of pro-democracy activists that the distribution of wealths in democratic states is better than in non-democratic states. Indeed, over the last decade democratisation process has took place in Indonesia, as indicated by the appearance of free and fair election, the more power of parliaments and freedom of the press. However, the engagement of people to democracy has been decline recently. Many people have been cynical to political elites because the elites have been thought are only concerned with themselves. Democracy is presumably only better for elites. As a consequence of this disconnect electoral, the turn out of elections, for instance, tend to decline substantially. While during the 2004 parliament election the turn out was 76.66 per cent, the turn out of the 2009 election became 60.78 percent. This paper attempts to figure out the challenges in deepening democracy in Indonesia. In explaining this phenomenon, this paper explores the direct head of sub-national governments’ election (Pilkada) which has been carried out since the mid-2005. Among the purposes of the direct election is facilitate the appearance good governance at local level. Consequently the leaders would be concerned more to the people. In fact many head of sub-national governments have performed badly.

Changing Political Dynamics in Contemporary Malaysia: Implications For Our Understanding of Liberal Democratic Change in Southeast Asia
Surain Subramaniam, University of North Carolina, Asheville, USA

In the study of the political dynamics of democratization in Malaysia, scholars have identified numerous institutional and societal factors that have acted as barriers to greater democratization and political liberalization. Nevertheless, scholars have also observed many of these barriers undergoing change in the direction of liberal democratic change, particularly in the run-up to and since the 2008 General Election. This paper will provide a comprehensive and systematic study of the major factors that have undergone transformation in the Malaysian political system. Specifically, this paper will examine (1) the changing role and influence of the dominant political party (UMNO) with its leadership changes from Mahathir Mohamad to Abdullah Badawi to Najib Razak, and the concurrent rise of an alternative opposition coalition and Anwar Ibrahim; (2) the changing role of the media with the growth of a critical mass of alternative web-based media outlets and expressions of political voices critical of the ruling regime and the political status-quo; and (3) the increasing influence and political consolidation of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and social movements as sites of political protest, contestation, and opposition that in effect challenges the perception of a compliant middle class by delineating the parameters of a new democratic political culture. Taken together, this paper will argue that the political dynamics in Malaysia have undergone the kinds of institutional and societal transformations that would require scholars to move beyond our previous analytical and conceptual frameworks if we are to adequately explain the level of dynamism in contemporary Malaysian politics.

Caste, Crosscutting Cleavages and Public Goods: A field experiment amongst slum populations in India
Joel Sawat Selway, Brigham Young University, USA

Are ethnically divided communities less likely to set up arrangements based on trust and reciprocity, such as interpersonal financial transfers and public goods provision? A lab experiment involving 350 randomly selected participants from slum neighborhoods in Chennai, India, tests the effect of several dimensions of social identity on participants' distributional choices. We find that, when considered separately, religion, neighborhood of residence and level of education have no effect on the cohesiveness of participants and their distributional choices, but that shared caste (jati) identity significantly increases the likelihood of interpersonal transfers. However, we find that the ethnic preference effect diminishes when offerers are aware of recipients' other bases of social identity. Indeed, offerers do not exhibit an ethnic preference to members of their own jati when they do not share religious, educational and neighborhood identities. Put differently, offerers do not exhibit an ethnic preference when they know other social identities that recipients hold. These findings provide strong evidence for the theory that cross-cutting cleavages can reduce ethnic identities. Not only can cross-cutting religious identities serve to diminish the salience of ethnicity-a common story for the success of democracy in India-but even education levels and residential patterns can induce social cohesion amongst individuals from different ethnic groups.

Redefining participation and the state: Co-management and its potential to transform environmental governance in Vietnam
Edmund J. V. Oh, Cornell University, USA

Co-management has been gaining increasing appeal in Vietnam as a promising alternative to exclusive state authority over natural resources, reflecting a gradual shift in policy thinking towards greater community participation in resource management. However, attempts to establish co-management arrangements at the local level have so far had limited success. The development discourse often cites capacity building and legal reform as the biggest challenges. This paper challenges this narrative by arguing that it fails to account for the power relations in which co-management is embedded. A depoliticized understanding of co-management renders opaque the various reconfigurations of power that occur when such a radical notion is institutionalized. Furthermore, it assumes an unproblematic conception of both ‘the state’ and ‘the community’ as internally consistent social structures, disregarding the many contestations that occur within them. Drawing on interviews conducted at several aquatic resource co-management projects in the Mekong Delta, I suggest that, contrary to prevailing wisdom, co-management in Vietnam has emerged despite rather than because of policy. I argue that the ascendancy of co-management not only reflects the broader transformations in state-society relations in Vietnam that have been underway since the mid-1980s; it has also played a crucial and historical role in driving them. As a step towards a more nuanced appreciation of the context in which co-management is emerging, this paper identifies opportunities to seize and pitfalls to avoid if co-management is to result in more equitable and sustainable outcomes.