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Singapore ‘Exceptionalism’? Authoritarian Rule and State Transformation

Rodan, G. (2006) Singapore ‘Exceptionalism’? Authoritarian Rule and State Transformation. Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia.

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The capacity of the People’s Action Party (PAP) of Singapore to continually reproduce an authoritarian regime stands in sharp contrast with the situation in Taiwan and South Korea. Yet there is nothing theoretically exceptional to this case. Singapore’s political institutions, as elsewhere, are the product of dynamic social and political interests, conflicts and coalitions. However, analysis must not only take account of how various interests and coalitions relate to the state, but also how they may be embodied in the state, or selectively excluded from it. Processes of state transformation are integral to the analysis of political regimes and associated institutions. The durability of Singapore’s authoritarian regime owes much to the mutual transformation of state and party that availed the PAP of new instruments and bases of power. The pervasive social and economic roles assumed by the PAP state have undermined the basis for independent, oppositional political coalitions to emerge. Importantly, the regime is not without ongoing tensions and contradictions and has undergone significant political change over time. Thus, rather than asking why democracy has not arrived in Singapore, the question is what direction political change has taken and why? The approach taken here has general implications for the understanding of the prospects and nature of political transitions.

Item Type: Working Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Series Name: Working Paper. Asia Research Centre. No. 131
Publisher: Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University
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