Technocratic Socialism in Singapore (1954-76)

‘Technocratic Socialism’: The Political Thought of Lee Kuan Yew and Devan Nair (1954–1976)” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2022.2086480) is a new JCA article by Quah Say Jye of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

The abstract for the paper states:

Despite initially expressing a firm commitment to socialism and its ideals, the People’s Action Party’s socialist roots remain curiously under-explored. To take a first step in reconstructing the party leadership’s understanding of socialism from 1954 to 1976, this article investigates the socialist political thought of two of their key figures – founding Secretary-General Lee Kuan Yew and stalwart union leader Devan Nair. This article reconstructs Lee and Nair’s theory of socialism that it terms “technocratic socialism.” It draws from the historiographical method of Quentin Skinner to read Lee and Nair as intervening in their specific Cold War and decolonisation context, where socialism was dominated by Marxism-Leninism. Four key overlapping tenets of the theory are posited: (i) a loose form of historical materialism; (ii) a conception of the technocratic elite as the privileged subject; (iii) equality of opportunity as a moral principle; and (iv) a geo-political position which emphasised non-alignment, material development, and power politics. The article concludes with discussion of technocratic socialism’s socialist credentials.

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