Political Economy of Checkpoints

The Introduction to the forthcoming special issue on Checkpoint Politics in Cross-border Exchanges, “The Political Economy of Border Checkpoints in Shadow Exchanges” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1555273), by the guest editors  Tak-Wing Ngo of the Department of Government and Public Administration, University of Macau, Macau and Eva P. W. Hung of the Department of Social Science, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China is now available for free download.

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Ideology and water control in Mekong states

Is Irrigationalism a Dominant Ideology in Securing Hydrotopia in Mekong Nation States?” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1577903) is an article by independent scholar David J. H. Blake from Taunton in the UK.


Blake’s abstract states:

For over six decades, grandiose proposals calling for significant expansion of public irrigation schemes have been commonplace throughout the Mekong region, irrespective of the political configuration or developmental stage of each state. From Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea to Thailand’s military and quasi-democratic regimes, irrigation has figured prominently on development agendas. Mainstream narratives around irrigation are embedded in a technocentric, developmental and nationalistic discourse, incorporating socially pre-conditioned beliefs and values that closely reflect the rhetoric of state-linked elites. This article critically examines some of the narratives employed by key actors and groups to justify ongoing practices and processes of irrigation development, focusing on Thailand and Cambodia. It seeks to look beyond conventional econometric and instrumental drivers, to consider other socio-political factors that may account for irrigation’s critical role as a “technology of control,” but which are rarely examined across comparative national contexts. Further, it proposes a dominant ideology of irrigation developmentalism or “irrigationalism” as a useful concept in explaining certain aspects of contemporary social power in these nations. State-led irrigation may be perceived as a utopian intervention that aids in the emergence of an effective monopolistic authority and control by bureaucracies and other powerful groups over development decision-making processes and silencing opposition.


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Precarity among fishers and their families

Secondary Precarity in Asia: Family Vulnerability in an Age of Unfree Labour” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1572772) is a new article by Sallie Yea of the Department of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia. It is a fourth article in an upcoming special issue on Precarity in Asia.

The abstract states:

Scholarly discussions of precarious work have identified and analysed the conditions and structures that produce precarity, the contextual nuances that characterise worker relations across a range of sites and sectors and the possibilities of resistance by the precariat. In these studies, workers are often discussed with inadequate attention to their social embeddedness. Taking workers’ embeddedness in social relations and norms as a starting point for analysis, this article explores a secondary aspect of precarity amongst families of exploited workers. This aspect is analysed according to three registers of vulnerability and risk: economic (household and livelihood), intimate (anxiety and negative emotional relations) and physical (mobility and movement). The article outlines this framework through a case study of trafficked fishers and their families from Cambodia and the Philippines. Human trafficking is an extreme form of precarious labour, characterised by unfreedom and hyper-exploitation. The article contributes to the understanding of the trafficking of migrant fishers, which has not seen rigorous academic documentation and is relatively poorly understood in comparison to other forms of trafficking.


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Resistance and a Conservative Working Class in China

Precarity, Cognitive (Non-)Resistance and the Conservative Working Class in China” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1576215) is a new article by Jake Lin of the Institute of International Relations, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

This is a third article for a special issue on Precarity in Asia and its controversial interpretation should elicit some interesting debate.

The abstract states:

Workers’ resistance is crucial to understanding how the working class respond to the growing labour precarity in post-socialist China. The labour studies literature posits that inequality and volatile capital movements increase workers’ precarity and lead to stronger labour resistance, such as strikes. However, workers’ cognition as an integral part of resistance has been rarely studied. This article examines cognitive resistance by Chinese workers from different tier cities by looking at their social trust, class identity, understanding of policies and class solidarity. Despite capital movements and precarity causing more labour unrest, it does not necessarily lead to a stronger cognitive resistance. While inequality and precarity are greater in the more developed megacities with a shifting capital favourability, workers in megacities display a more conservative cognitive resistance than those from the lower-tier cities. This study of workers’ cognitive resistance provides insight into the future of the Chinese labour movement. It argues that the working class’s current cognitive non-resistance suggests that even if a window of opportunity were to appear in the wall of state oppression, workers are not cognitively prepared to coalesce into a coherent social movement that would bring about transformative changes.

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Land Grabbing in China and India

Land Grabbing in an Autocracy and a Multi-Party Democracy: China and India Compared” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1569253) is a new article by Lynette H. Ong of the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada.

The abstract for the paper states:

Both China and India have witnessed extensive land expropriation by the state from farmers for use in industrialisation and urbanisation projects. Land conflicts have ensued from these developments. This article poses two questions: (i) Why do we see a similar escalation of land dispossession in both countries, despite their distinctively dissimilar political systems, one being a one-party authoritarian regime, the other being a multi-party democracy?; and (ii) How does the different regime type affect the politics of dispossession? Despite their diverse political institutions, government officials have been given similar incentives to chase growth by developing land, but the institutions create diverging environments for aggrieved citizens to mobilise for collective action. While it is unsurprising that the interests of the poor and weak are not protected in an autocracy, democracy provides no automatic safety valve in defending marginalised citizens either.

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World Trade Systems, Nagasaki and Bullion

Arturo Giráldez of the School of International Studies at the University of the Pacific, Stockton, California, USA reviews a new book by JCA co-editor Geoffrey C. Gunn. World Trade Systems of the East and West. Nagasaki and the Asian Bullion Trade Networks, is published by Brill.

It was Adam Smith who “singled out the crucial importance of silver in the growth of global trade.” Gunn’s book focuses on Nagasaki a a critical centre of regional and world trade, particularly once the Europeans entered Asian waters. Giráldez observes:

The book narrates the vicissitudes of the Nagasaki trade, pays detailed attention to political institutions like the central “tributary system,” while detailing cultural aspects and religious histories. Description of artifacts, history of architecture as well as references to archaeological findings are incorporated into the narrative’s arguments and highly enrich them.

In so doing, Gunn “rejects Eurocentrism and European exceptionalism…”. The reviewer concludes:

Gunn has contributed a detailed study of Nagasaki trade during Japan’s unification and under the Tokugawa. It is an excellent contribution to global history and a required reference to understand the place of Japan in the world economy of the Modern Era.

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Political Dominance and Decline in Malaysia: The Monetisation of Consent

Johan Saravanamuttu

The Monetisation of Consent and its Limits: Explaining Political Dominance and Decline in Malaysia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1569710) is an article authored by Johan Saravanamuttu of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Maznah Mohamad of the Department of Malay Studies and Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.

The abstract states:

Maznah Mohamad

Malaysia’s 14th General Election in 2018 toppled the Barisan Nasional government after six decades in power. Barisan Nasional’s longevity was due to its performance legitimacy and a capacity to manipulate electoral mechanisms. However, it was the use of money in eliciting consent that led to a political change. This article traces how sustaining the dominance of the Barisan Nasional under Najib Razak used a strategy which we term the monetisation of consent. However, when monetising consent loses its efficacy, political dominance is challenged. We discuss why and how manufacturing consent through the use of money has its limits when regime legitimacy is challenged. Intense political competition on the electoral terrain from 2008 and the multiplication of Malay-Muslim political parties induced Najib’s greater personal grip on state funds to gain political support. This resulted in the Najib regime’s kleptocratic turn. Beyond the disbursement of largesse to political power brokers and business elites, his government monetised consent as a populist strategy. The reduced efficacy of electoral manipulation made the monetisation of consent imperative for regime survival but the use of money and unpopular fiscal policies, which deprived citizens of disposable income, led to a legitimacy crisis and the Barisan Nasional’s defeat.

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