Neo-liberalism and Higher Education in Indonesia

Inaya Rakhmani of the Department of Communication in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Indonesia, has a new article with JCA. It is: “Reproducing Academic Insularity in a Time of Neo-liberal Markets: The Case of Social Science Research in Indonesian State Universities” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1627389).

The abstract for the article follows:

This article reflects on neo-liberal reform of Indonesia’s state universities, using Michael Burawoy’s approach to the division of sociological labour in particular and social science in general. It examines the relationship between neo-liberal market imperatives and authoritarian bureaucratic legacies that not only curtail the development of theoretically engaged and socially relevant scholarship but also shape knowledge production through the marketisation of technocratic research. This article shows how, counter-intuitively, the rise of managerial power linked with neo-liberal policies has prolonged the mechanics of bureaucratic administration that Indonesian state universities inherited from the authoritarian New Order regime. This has resulted in a condition where insular academic practices perpetuate technocratic social science research driven by market mechanisms. The article argues that acknowledging the unequal status accorded to instrumental as opposed to reflexive knowledge production is crucial to understand the failures of neo-liberal reform in post-authoritarian Indonesia state universities. It concludes that a thorough reconsideration of the institutional settings that have systematically constrained critical and professional social science in Indonesia is necessary before any attempts at structural changes that enable the sort of deep engagement with the public that Burawoy envisages for a critical social science.

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Australia and Asia

David Walker’s new book Stranded Nation: White Australia in an Asian Region is reviewed for JCA by Kanishka Jayasuriya of Politics and International Studies at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia.  The book is published by UWA Press.

Following from Walker’s earlier works, this book is about “Australia’s engagement from the mid-twentieth century to the early 1970s. This period saw the unfolding of the Cold War, the period of decolonisation, and the British withdrawal from Asia, and Australia’s participation in a new set of political and military alliances with the USA.”

The book is:

… organised through “windows” into key personalities and events which are entertaining and interesting in themselves. The personalities – both within Australia and those looking at Australia from outside – spring out of the pages. The various players in this complex situation may have been constrained by diplomatic protocol, the boundaries of academic and journalistic practices, and the strictures of racially inflected world views, but these personalities have not been reducible to these constraints. They invariably manage to leave their own distinctive stamp on the story of Australia and Asia.

The reviewer identifies two important themes that  run through Walker’s previous volume – Anxious Nation: Australia and the Rise of Asia 1850 to 1939 and the new book: “First, is that the representation of the region as being in, and out of, Asia shaped national anxieties, fears, insecurities and hopes.” The second is race and “particularly the idea of white prestige. Race was imbricated in the representation of the region and this is an important cornerstone of Australia’s emerging diplomatic relationships and foreign policy.”

Jayasuriya commends the book: “This is a well-crafted volume written with a deft hand. It covers an enormous range of topics, personalities and events which will serve a broad range of interests – academic and non-academic. It is one of those rare academic books that is entertaining and readable.”

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Japan’s Demography and Marx’s Capitalist Law of Population

A second paper for a forthcoming Special Issue on Marxism in Asia, guest edited by Rick Westra, has been published. “Japanese Demographic Crisis in View of Marx’s Capitalist Law of Population” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1625942) is by legendary Marxist economist Makoto Itoh, professor emeritus with the Faculty of Economics at the University of Tokyo in Japan.

The abstract states:

In more than four decades, Japanese society has rapidly intensified a tendency towards a very low fertility rate with a smaller number of children. It is generally confirmed that a society needs a total fertility rate of at least 2.1 in order to avoid a decline in its total population. The total fertility rate in Japan was still 2.14 in 1973, when the period of high economic growth in the post-World War II ended. It continued to decline to 1.26 in 2005. It then recovered somewhat in 2015, as the post-war “junior” baby-boom generation reacted to its last chance to have children. However, the recovery is temporary, and the Japanese total fertility rate is estimated to slide again in the 2020s. This article examines this transition through a re-examination of Marx’s capitalist law of population. This approach rejects the naturalist theory of population and directs attention to Japan’s demographic decline in the context of neo-liberal policies in contemporary capitalism.

 

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After Thailand’s Coup

In a new review, Editor-in-chief Kevin Hewison of the Department of Asian Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Centre for Macau Studies at the University of Macau, looks at a new collection published by Singapore’s ISEAS.

After the Coup. The National Council for Peace and Order Era and the Future of Thailand is edited by Michael Montesano, Terence Chong and Mark Heng Shu Xun. Hewison notes that the book’s 15 chapters cover much ground but that there are several stand-out chapters among others that are less memorable. He observes that 16 of the 20 authors involved in this project are Thai. The topics taken up “range across the politics of the middle class, regionalism, monarchy, media and contestation,” with “excursions into the southern violence, economic growth and demography…”.

While the class analysis involved in some of the chapters is not particularly strong, a couple of chapters on the monarchy are useful and interesting. Also of interest are chapters that reflect on the failure of the red shirt movement to oppose the 2014 coup. They reveal extensive and targeted political repression and “ ‘counter-decentralisation,’ ‘re-centralisation’ and ‘de-democratisation’ that halted local elections and enforced the domination of state ideology…”.

The reviewer concludes that this is “a useful collection of well-edited and readable contributions on the current state of Thailand’s politics is the military junta’s thoroughgoing effort to wind back Thailand’s political and social clock,” even if there are some important topics not covered (e.g. the working class, crises in Buddhism, the political economy of the capitalist class and the internal politics of the military).

 

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Industrial Relations in China and Vietnam

Vietnam’s and China’s Diverging Industrial Relations Systems: Cases of Path Dependency” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1623907) is by Anita Chan of the Department of Political and Social Change at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

The article abstract states:

This article explains why Vietnam and China, one-party states that allow only one official trade union, are traversing different paths in their trade unions’ institutional structures, the state’s and trade union’s attitudes towards strikes, their willingness to allow independent trade unions and willingness to engage with the international labour union movement. These will be examined in terms of the path dependency of their recent histories, in which changes have been incremental on a path laid down by pre-existing entrenched institutions, until each national system no longer operated properly and new contingencies obliged the leadership to revamp the system. As a consequence of China’s and Vietnam’s divergent path dependencies, when external contingencies finally forced institutional change, countries have veered onto divergent trajectories – the Trans-Pacific Partnership energising Vietnam to debate the acceptance of autonomous trade unions, while Xi Jinping in China has intensified Party control over industrial relations.

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Issue 4 of 2019 published

Issue number 4 of Volume 49 of the journal has gone to print and is available electronically at the publisher’s site. This is a special issue titled Precarious Work, Precarious Lives: The Nature and Experience of Precarity in Asia and guest edited by Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Jonathan Rigg. It consists of five articles and an Introduction.

The issue is filled out by two further research articles and six book reviews. The special issue articles are:

Living in an Age of Precarity in 21st Century Asia by Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Jonathan Rigg

Precarious Work and its Complicit Network: Migrant Labour in Singapore by Chuanfei Chin

Secondary Precarity in Asia: Family Vulnerability in an Age of Unfree Labour by Sallie Yea

Precarity, Cognitive (Non-)Resistance and the Conservative Working Class in China by Jake Lin

Precarity and Vulnerability: Rubber Plantations in Northern Laos and Northern Shan State, Myanmar by Kyoko Kusakabe and Aye Chan Myae

Networks of Reciprocity: Precarity and Community Social Organisations in Rural Myanmar by Michael Griffiths

The two additional research articles are:

Liberalisation in India: Does it Resolve or Aggravate Employment Problems? by Timothy Kerswell and Surendra Pratap

Japan’s Contested Labour Market Reform by Jiyeoun Song

The book reviews are:

Border Capitalism, Disrupted: Precarity and Struggle in a Southeast Asian Industrial Zone reviewed by Kyoko Kusakabe

Participation without Democracy: Containing Conflict in Southeast Asia reviewed by Edward Aspinall

Owners of the Map. Motorcycle Taxi Drivers, Mobility, and Politics in Bangkok reviewed by Kevin Hewison (be among the first 50 to get a free copy)

Mythbusting Vietnam: Fact, Fictions, Fantasies reviewed by Geoffrey Gunn

Borders and Mobility in South Asia and Beyond reviewed by Diotima Chattoraj

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Bangladeshi Women and Migration

Learning to Swim in Turbulent Waters: Women’s Migration at the Agency-Exploitation Nexus” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1612935) is a new article by Thérèse Blanchet of the Drishti Research Centre in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Samantha K. Watson of the Department of Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, UK.

The abstract for the paper states:

The last two decades have witnessed shifts in official representations of women’s international migration in Bangladesh. An historic preoccupation with risk/danger, in which (poor) women’s international mobility was presented as synonymous with “sex trafficking” has latterly been superseded by more “positive” images. More recently, the government has taken steps to actively promote women’s migration for “low-skilled” labour to, primarily, the Middle East. This shift is mirrored in a reconfiguration of awareness-raising and training initiatives targeting aspiring women migrant workers. The “counter-trafficking” programmes that once dominated, with their focus on risks/dangers, have begun to be supplanted by curricula representing women’s international migration as “a legitimate and respectable option.” This, new, pro-female-migration, stance presents a widening of women’s opportunities – and an overt challenge to the stigmas tainting female transnational mobility in “good society,” yet its progressive goals are partial and unstable. While restrictions on women’s mobility are demonstrably harmful, it does not follow that the active promotion of international migration – as a disciplined and devalued labour force – is progressive. This article explores these tensions based on 18 months of qualitative and ethnographic fieldwork following women participating in one such “new generation” anti-trafficking initiative.

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