Legitimation, Socialism and “New Thinking” in Laos

“Legitimation of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party: Socialism, Chintanakan Mai (New Thinking) and Reform” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1439081) by the IDE’s Norihiko Yamada, is the first of a collection of articles on Laos. That collection has been guest edited by Simon Creak and Keith Barney to be called Party-State Governance and Rule in Laos.

Yamada’s abstract states:

To date, scholars of authoritarianism have paid much attention to the use of democratic institutions in dictatorships to mitigate threats from both internal and external ruling elites, to co-opt and divide opposition and to solve commitment problems among the ruling elite. However, there have been no in-depth studies of legitimacy in an authoritarian regime. In communist states, opposition and dissent are addressed not through co-optation but exclusion. By contrast, communist parties attach great value for their survival to obtaining legitimacy from the masses. This article argues that the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) has endeavoured to acquire legitimacy since the foundation of the regime through a dialogical configuration of economic reform and socialist ideology. Economic reform and ideological legitimisation always go together, interacting with each other: economic reform requires ideological modification, and ideology defines the framework of reform. In Laos, this paradoxical configuration is necessary for the LPRP to maintain legitimacy while concurrently pursuing an ideal of socialism and reality of economic reform. In making this argument, this article reassesses the nature and significance of chintanakan mai (new thinking), which was not a formal reform policy, as often assumed, but a temporary slogan for promoting economic reforms.

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Thailand’s anti-royalism

It is unusual for JCA to publish an anonymous article. However, for the latest article at the publisher’s website, “Anti-Royalism in Thailand Since 2006: Ideological Shifts and Resistance” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1427021), we have withheld the author’s name.

This decision reflects the fact that Thailand’s government strictly enforces a draconian lèse-majesté law, with the military junta that came to power in 2014 jailing scores of people. For this reason, the Journal and the author decided to publish this article anonymously. The last time that we did something like this was for an article on Thailand in 1978, which was published under a pseudonym.

The article is available for free download, but only for a few weeks.

The abstract for the paper states:

Since the military coup d’état of 2006 and the downfall of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand has experienced chronic political turmoil. Crises of legitimacy expanded to engulf every political institution. This includes the monarchy, usually claimed to be the most “beloved” and “revered” of all institutions, and which has faced widespread anti-royalism since 2006. In this article, it is argued that this recent anti-royalism was neither a well-planned scheme or plot, as claimed by the country’s military junta, nor driven by Marxist or republican ideologies that featured in previous bouts of anti-monarchism. Rather, the new anti-royalism will be shown to have emerged from the royalist hegemony that has been deepened since the late 1970s. Moreover, anti-royalist ideas and expressions have shifted dynamically as society has become more polarised. Thailand’s political conflict is overwhelmingly characterised by contestations over meanings. In this context and in a highly repressive political and legal context, those who wished to challenge royal power used metaphorical ambiguity, jokes, vulgarity and parody on a daily basis. These arts of resistance were reproduced through popular channels which tended to escape state surveillance, for instance, protest songs, poetry, chats at gathering sites, formal and informal speeches, and symbols in both on and offline worlds.

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Islamic Populism and Right-Wing Politics in Indonesia

Islam, populism and the political right seem to topics of great interest in the current epoch.  In an article for a special collection edited by Priya Chacko and Kanishka Jayasuriya to be titled “Crisis, Populism and Right-wing Politics in Asia,” Vedi R. Hadiz of the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia has contributed “Imagine All the People? Mobilising Islamic Populism for Right-Wing Politics in Indonesia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1433225).

The Abstract states:

Right-wing politics in Indonesia is frequently associated with Islamic populist ideas. In part this is because Islamic organisations played a major role in the army-led destruction of the Indonesian Communist Party in the 1960s. Since then Islamic populism has evolved greatly and in post-authoritarian Indonesia it includes manifestations that see no fundamental contradiction between Islam and neo-liberal market economies as well as those that do. Significantly, like their counterparts in other countries, Indonesian Islamic populists maintain vigilance against the purveyors of class-based politics who may exert a divisive influence on the ummah. Thus, Indonesian Islamic populism shares with many of its counterparts a disdain for Leftist challenges to private property and capital accumulation besides political liberalism’s affinity to the secular national state. Yet strands of Islamic populism have relegated the project of establishing a state based on sharia to the background and embraced the democratic process. But this has not translated necessarily into social pluralist positions on a range of issues because the reinforcement of cultural idioms associated with Islam is required for the mobilisation of public support in contests over power and resources based on an ummah-based political identity.

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Social Media and Environmental Politics in Indonesia

Kristina Großmann of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Passau in Germany has a new article at JCA. “Social Media and the Successful Anti-Mining Campaign in Bangka, Indonesia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1432675) examines the hotly debated topic of social media and political mobilisation.

The abstract states:

This article elaborates on the functionalities of Facebook and WhatsApp, and the possibilities and limitations of their usage in the anti-mining campaign in Bangka, Indonesia, with special focus on the participation and offline–online intertwining of communication processes. The research reported in this article contributes to a deeper understanding of the relationship between social media and political protest in the context of discriminatory natural resource extraction in Indonesia. In 2017, the alliance against the mining activities of the Chinese company PT Mikgro Metal Perdana in Bangka, which consisted of villagers, activists, tourism operators and divers, succeeded in ousting PT MMP from Bangka. Social media enhanced mobilisation, communication, knowledge transfer, transparency, and solidarity in this anti-mining campaign. Through WhatsApp, the rapid transmission of information and communication was facilitated when urgent action was needed. The Facebook group Save Bangka Island not only provided general information but also enhanced solidarity, cohesion and the creation of an “imagined community.” However, it is also found that social media sites are stratified spaces where villagers – the primary affected group – are excluded because of their lack of Internet access.

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Relative Surplus Population in Indonesia

Muhtar Habibi

Muhtar Habibi of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia and Benny Hari Juliawan of the Graduate School of Religious and Cultural Studies, Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia have authored “Creating Surplus Labour: Neo-Liberal Transformations and the Development of Relative Surplus Population in Indonesia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1429007).

This is an important article, applying Marxist categories to the statistics produced by the Indonesian state to analyse employment and work.

Benny Hari Juliawan

The abstract states:

Many among the world’s population are surplus to the requirements of capital accumulation. These are people who become engaged in precarious employment both in rural and urban contexts and those who are involuntarily unemployed. Their presence has been particularly acute in “peripheral countries.” Mainstream economic literature explains this in terms of the dual labour market, where it is argued that surplus labour will eventually disappear with market-led economic development. Contrary to this explanation, this article argues, using Marx’s concept of relative surplus population (RSP), that under the existing neo-liberal framework such labour vulnerability is continually being created. This article charts the developmental history of Indonesia and demonstrates that the growth of RSP is an outcome of a neo-liberal transformation which favours capital accumulation at the service of global markets. Neo-liberal adjustments shape the development of RSP in three related ways. First, the adjustments change class relations and transform state orientation. Second, the reconfiguration of class dynamics and the state shapes the model of accumulation. Third, the model of accumulation eventually affects the size of RSP. It is argued that the disconnection between the domestic agricultural development and industrialisation has contributed to the maintenance of a large RSP in Indonesia.

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JCA in Macau

The Journal of Contemporary Asia is pleased to announce that, from 1 February the official address for the Journal of Contemporary Asia has become the Institute of Macau Studies at the University of Macau.

Hosting the journal involves the addition of two new members of the editorial board. We welcome Professor Tak-Wing Ngo, a JCA author, as a co-editor. Dr Melody Chia-Wen Lu joins the editorial board.

We look forward to working with the University.

We are grateful to the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University, where the Journal has been based since 2013.

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Authoritarian Statism, New Right and Asia’s Conservative Democracies

The first article for a new special collection edited by Priya Chacko and Kanishka Jayasuriya to be titled “Crisis, Populism and Right-wing Politics in Asia” has been published.

Authored by guest co-editor Jayasuriya, “Authoritarian Statism and the New Right in Asia’s Conservative Democracies” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1431304) is a theoretically-informed examination of the conservative turn to authoritarianism in two of Asia’s democratic regimes, Japan and South Korea.

The abstract states:

Across Asia there has been a shift to the right in important democratic polities. This article argues that this conservative or authoritarian shift reflects the emergence of a new form of political regime that Nicos Poulantzas characterised as authoritarian statism. This article presents a theoretical framework – with illustrative case studies of Japan and Korea – to understand the emergence of a distinctive brand of Asian authoritarian statism. These new trajectories of political regimes reflect interconnected political and economic crises of conservative capitalist democracies. These crises are the result of the fracturing of modes and mechanisms of political incorporation due to the transnationalisation of capital. It is argued that the inability of current modes of state intervention or political incorporation to manage these economic and political crises or secure political legitimacy for political projects to deepen market reform has led to a “crisis of crisis management” and the further weakening of the Japanese and Korean states.

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