States, Governance and Palm Oil in Southeast Asia

In the first of the articles for a special issue – Who Governs and How? Non-State Actors and Transnational Governance in Southeast Asia – edited by Helen E. S. Nesadurai and Shaun Breslin.

The first article is by Helen Nesadurai of the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia. Her paper is titled “New Constellations of Social Power: States and Transnational Private Governance of Palm Oil Sustainability in Southeast Asia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1390145) and examines the important topic of the management of palm oil production in Southeast Asia.

The abstract for the article states:

This article considers whether private sustainability standards can lead to lasting change in corporate and state agricultural practices implicated in the environmental damage and social conflicts caused by oil palm cultivation in Indonesia and Malaysia by examining in detail the social processes through which non-state actors engage in governance. Sceptics of private regulation point to the powerful state–business patronage networks in these countries as structural impediments to reforming this sector. Drawing on the literature on global production networks, I show how producers deeply embedded within such supportive local political economies nevertheless choose to comply with stringent global private standards to reduce risks to their global operations. It was the renewed emphasis on supply chain “traceability” to demonstrate responsible corporate behaviour to investors, buyers and consumers that served to embed globally-oriented palm oil plantation firms and their upstream suppliers into emerging ethical supply chains. Embedding occurs through three social processes – surveillance, normalising judgement and knowledge transfer. The private regulatory developments analysed in this article, though relatively recent, are supported by a diverse transnational coalition of principled and instrumental interests and have created significant openings for a new, or at least, parallel, and more progressive, private regulatory order in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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History of Ayutthaya

In a new book review, Robert H. Taylor of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute writes for JCA about A History of Ayutthaya: Siam in the Early Modern Period, by Fukuoka Prize awardees Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit.

Published by Cambridge University Press, Taylor observes that this is not only an excellent account of early modern Siam, but that the authors, as “gifted historians and translators,” provide a book that “opens new perspectives on the history not only of central mainland Southeast Asia, but the larger Asian world. The volume opens readers’ eyes to the sweep of Asian history from the late thirteenth century to the final quarter of the eighteenth century.” He says that the period “comes alive in Baker and Pasuk’s volume as in no other.”

He concludes his review:

Making sense of the past, not only the past of kings, but of institutions, Asia-wide trading patterns, religious and linguistic change and social transformation, is rarely achieved in a single volume. This and more is to be found in this book. For those who see the history of Thailand as the history of peasants and Bangkok, this book will open their eyes to another Siam, richer and more complex than ever imagined. For those who want to understand the evolution of states and societies on mainland Southeast Asia over a longer period than the myopia induced by nationalism, this book is a must.

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Now Free: Neo-liberal managerialism in Japan

Nana Okura Gagne of the Department of Japanese Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong has a new article available with JCA, available at the publisher’s website.

“Correcting Capitalism”: Changing Metrics and Meanings of Work among Japanese Employees (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1381984)  looks at how Japanese business has accommodated itself to notions of neo-liberal governance.

This article is currently available for free download.

The article’s abstract states:

What have been the processes of economic restructuring occurring inside many Japanese corporations, and what neo-liberal techniques have been used on the ground since the 2000s? By placing Japanese neo-liberalism within the broader historical and socio-cultural dynamics of the ideology of “companyism” since the end of World War II, this article analyses the specific deployment of neo-liberal techniques in the Japanese workplace, and the evolving responses by both employees and management. It argues that while profit margins and efficiency were clear targets for neo-liberal reformers, the human cost of neo-liberal economising was more difficult to calculate and triggered unforeseen frictions and tensions in the workplace. As a result, corporate reforms have been mediated by the challenges emerging from various structural reforms. This article shows how both employees and management became more self-reflexive and new permutations of neo-liberal governance have emerged, highlighting both the continuities and changes in the meaning of work under the global permeation of neo-liberalism.

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Free access to Journal of Peasant Studies

Some time ago, the Journal of Peasant Studies marked its 40th anniversary with some free articles.

A couple of months ago, celebrating a large impact factor score for 2016, it made 25  articles available for free download.

They are worth looking at.

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The End of the Developmental State

Iain Pirie of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick in the UK has been a keen participant in debates about the developmental state in East Asia. In his new article, “Korea and Taiwan: The Crisis of Investment-Led Growth and the End of the Developmental State” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1375136), he examines the rise of finance and the decline of the developmental state.

His abstract states:

A defining feature of the Northeast Asian developmental state was a focus on maximising investment and suppressing growth in consumption. While consistently high rates of investment were an integral part of the growth model, as the South Korean and Taiwanese economies matured, the viability of this model was undermined by the inability of these economies to generate sufficient opportunities for profitable investment. At the same time, the legacies of systems of labour control associated with the developmental state have impeded the development of stable wage-led growth regimes in both political economies. Instead, they have become reliant on an unstable combination of current account surpluses and consumer borrowing to sustain growth. The legacies of the developmental state continue to define many aspects of the political-economic landscape in Korea and Taiwan. However, changes in the growth regimes, the reorientation of the financial sectors from corporate to household lending, and the downgrading of industrial policy mean that it is no longer useful to define Korea or Taiwan as developmental states. Instead, contemporary Korea and Taiwan can be best understood as post-developmental states.

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Accountability, clientelism and elections in Indonesia

A new article at JCA’s website reflects on decentralisation and voting in Indonesia. “A Tale of Three Cities: Electoral Accountability in Indonesian Local Politics” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1376345) by Diego Fossati of the Centre for Governance and Public Policy and the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University in Australia.

Fossati’s paper is a quantitative-based analysis that seeks to contribute to the debates regarding oligarchy and power in Indonesia since the fall of the Soeharto regime.

The abstract states:

In Indonesia, local government is endowed with important policy prerogatives and local politics is key to advance social welfare. The literature on Indonesian local politics has convincingly exposed serious limitations in local democratic practices, and it has questioned the ability of local democracy to promote genuine political change. This work, however, predominantly focuses on elite politics and specific forms of accountability based on patronage and clientelism. In this paper, we study democratic accountability in Indonesia from a different perspective. Drawing from the comparative literature on voting behavior, we hypothesise that Indonesian voters evaluate local politicians for their performance, and that they vote to reward or punish them for what they do in office. The analysis of three original surveys conducted in the cities of Medan, Samarinda and Surabaya offers partial support for this argument. While there is a positive relationship between evaluations of local government performance and support for incumbents, the strength of this link varies substantially across individuals and cities. The results shed new light on voter-politician linkages in Indonesia, suggesting that forms of accountability different from clientelism may emerge in this large and diverse country.

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Issue 5 for 2017 published

Issue number 5 in Volume 47 (2017) of the journal has gone to print and is available electronically. It is available at the publisher’s site. This is the first time that JCA has published 5 issues in a year.

This number is a special issue, supplemented by a research article and book reviews. This issue includes the following articles:

The featured collection is titled Malaysia and China in a Changing Region: Essays in Honour of Professor Lee Poh Ping. Professor Lee of the Institute of China Studies at the University of Malaya passed away in November 2016 and this collection includes papers by his colleagues and friends. The editors of the collection are Kevin Hewison and Siew Yean Tham. The articles are:

New Perspectives on Malaysia and a Rising China: Essays Honouring Lee Poh Ping (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1362829) by Kevin Hewison and Siew Yean Tham.

From Patrimonialism to Profit: The Changing Flow of Funds from the Chinese in Malaysia to China (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1347696) by Kee Cheok Cheong, Poh Ping Lee and Kam Hing Lee.

Dynamics of Trade in Value-Added in “Factory Asia”  (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1322628) by Andrew Kam Jia Yi.

Examining the Shift to Services: Malaysia and China Compared (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1310273) by Siew Yean Tham.

Huawei and ZTE in Malaysia: The Localisation of Chinese Transnational Enterprises (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1346697) by Ran Li and Kee-Cheok Cheong.

Navigating a Highly Protected Market: China’s Chery Automobile in Malaysia (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1345000) by Miao Zhang, Rajah Rasiah and John Kean Yew Lee.

Diversity of Southeast Asian Capitalisms: Evolving State-Business Relations in Malaysia (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1322629) by Edmund Terence Gomez and Elsa Lafaye De Micheaux.

The issue also includes a Research Article:

Chinese Nationalism and Trust in East Asia (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1322627) by Qin Pang and Nicholas Thomas.

The issue is filled out with several book reviews:

The Global Rise of China reviewed by Kosmas Tsokhas.

China’s Future reviewed by Kevin Hewison.

The South China Sea: A Crucible of Regional Cooperation or Conflict-Making Sovereignty Claims? reviewed by Laura Southgate.

Man or Monster? The Trial of a Khmer Rouge Torturer reviewed by Geoffrey C. Gunn.

Coalitions of the Well-Being: How Electoral Rules and Ethnic Politics Shape Health Policy in Developing Countries reviewed by Joseph Harris.


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