Well-known analyst of contemporary Singapore politics Michael Barr is at Australia’s Flinders University.
In his new article at the Journal of Contemporary Asia, “Ordinary Singapore: The Decline of Singapore Exceptionalism” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2015.1051387), Barr takes on the Singapore ruling elite’s claims of exceptionalism that have been used to legitimate its rule for several decades. The elite claims it is talented and competent and has made Singapore an exception in the region.
In this article Barr contends that this basis of legitimation has been irreversibly damaged in recent years. It is suggested that the People’s Action Party has lost control of the national narrative, and its achievements are now considered “ordinary” by the electorate. Barr argues that the collapse of exceptionalism has levelled the political playing field in terms of expectations and assumptions.
He suggests that the PAP probably will continue to win elections and rule through its control of the instruments of institutional power, but that scepticism is more widespread than it has been for several decades. Barr argues that this fundamentally changes the condition of Singapore politics: the narrative of exceptionalism is dead and the Singapore elite finds itself struggling to cope in a new and critical political environment.