Authoritarianism in Asia

In a new book review for JCA, Michael D. Barr of the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University in Australia has reviewed Authoritarian Modernism in East Asia by Mark R. Thompson, and published by Palgrave Macmillan.

While a slim volume, Barr states that Thompson’s book is a “must read.” It dispels many of the old “laws” of modernisation theory regarding the links between capitalism and democracy.

Most notable is “China’s success as a capitalist authoritarian state…”.  But this should not surprise, for as the author shows, “it was built on a century and a half of experiments in what he has labelled “authoritarian modernism.” His examples are “Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s Germany, Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi’s Japan, President Park Chung-hee’s South Korea, President Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore.” The book also observes the learning links between these “models.”

The discredited modernisation argument that the middle class means democracy is buried:

The middle class in these new economies was likewise a creature of the state rather than of bottom-up social evolution. Its members did not incrementally win their economic independence from a dominant ruling class and then set about expanding the dimensions of their independence. Rather, they were the grateful beneficiaries of a state project and despite some frustrations, they have not generally felt much need to rebel.

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