Handbook on Contemporary Thailand

Andrew Brown, formerly of the University of New England in Australia, has reviewed the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Thailand, edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun and published by Routledge.

A massive book of 34 chapters, written by “a collection of distinguished Thai and international scholars,” Brown says that the collection “provides a timely resource for those interested in understanding some of the major issues, tensions and debates defining Thailand’s contemporary economy, politics and society.”

The chapters address history, economic development, democratisation, monarchy, military, social movements, the courts, industrialisation and technological upgrading, nationalism, Buddhism, gender, environment, social media, civil society. international relations and more.

Because the book covers so much ground, the reviewer notes that the chapters are “[w]ritten from different disciplinary and theoretical perspectives” and the authors “do not address a shared set of questions or themes…”. He says this leads to the collection “lacks coherence and … the ordering and connections between chapters is not easily understood,” with some chapters needing more editorial polish.

Of course, in such large collections, some chapters are stronger than others. In the end, Brown concludes “the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Thailand is an important and welcome addition to the academic literature, summarising and linking with the broader literature on Thailand over several decades. Many readers, whether specialist or general, will find much of use and interest.”

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