State-managed Participation

A new review by Edward Aspinall of the Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University looks at Participation without Democracy: Containing Conflict in Southeast Asia. Published by Cornell University Press, this book is authored by Garry Rodan of Murdoch University.

Noting that the study of democratisation was dominated by political scientists who implicitly or explicitly adopted modernisation perpectives, Aspinall argues that such:

[a]ssumptions of a forward march toward a democratic future have become untenable as democracy has stagnated or receded in the region, as in the wider world. The very distinction between authoritarianism and democracy has become blurred by regimes which mix electoral and authoritarian features.

He observes that in this book, “Rodan wrenches our collective gaze away from the grand narrative of democratisation while keeping us focused on the sorts of contestation over participation and representation which have always been fundamental to democratic politics.”  Looking at Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, Rodan shows that participatory politics has been used by democratic regimes. More significantly, authoritarian states have also managed participation for maintaining regimes.

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