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Southeast Asia: The Left and the rise of bourgeois opposition

Hewison, K. and Rodan, G. (2012) Southeast Asia: The Left and the rise of bourgeois opposition. In: Robison, R., (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, London, England, pp. 25-39.


There can be little doubt that conservative elements associated with the political Right have been the dominant political influence in Southeast Asia since the end of colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s. It is true that the Left and related progressive forces have exerted important influences at particular times. However, it is apparent that their agendas of radical social, economic and political transformation have been subordinated to those promoting capitalist economic development, essentially conservative politics and hierarchical social structures as specified in various other chapters of this volume.

In this chapter we seek to outline the significance of the Left as well as its political demise following a period from about the 1930s to the early 1980s when socialist and communist parties were most active and significant. For the more recent period we outline how the political space occupied by these movements has come to be occupied by broad social democratic movements. In this category we include a range of liberal social movements, civil society organizations (CSOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have promoted a politics associated with human rights, environment, media freedom, rural livelihoods and other causes directly or indirectly championing citizenship rights of one sort or another.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright: The Author
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