The Liberal State and Its Discontents in Southeast Asia
Time & LocationSession 9
Fri 09:00–10:30 Room 1.102
- Tomas Larsson University of Cambridge
- Rachel Leow University of Cambridge
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- Autocratization Through Judicial Review Eugénie Mérieau University of Göttingen
It is often assumed that the process of autocratization entails the silencing of courts and independent constitutional organs of checks and balances, or, in other terms, a generalized attack on the mechanism of judicial review. Yet Southeast Asia provides a counter-narrative to that understanding, being a region where rising authoritarianism coexists with the expansion of judicial review. Indeed, with the expansion of judicial review from the end of the 2000s onwards (sometimes referred to as “judicialization of politics”), Southeast Asian constitutions have empowered courts to dissolve political parties (Cambodia, Thailand) and to protect the impunity of the military (Myanmar, Thailand). Meanwhile, courts have remained deferential in relation to the judicial review of emergencies (Singapore, Thailand). The Southeast Asian case-studies show how detailed constitutions providing for constitutional courts, usually hailed as the symbols of democratization, can in fact strengthen the process of autocratization.
- National Human Rights Institutions in Southeast Asia Marco Bünte Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg
A main concern of liberalism is to construct institutions that protect individual freedom by limiting and checking state power. National Human Rights Institutions are core institutions to protect the individual rights, including civil liberties and political, economic and social rights. A number of Southeast Asian states have established human rights institutions. The composition, mandate and effect of these institutions vary tremendously. The paper looks into the origins and mandate of the National Human Rights Institutions and tries to assess their effectiveness.
- Polyvalent Populism in Southeast Asia Andreas Ufen German Institute of Global and Area Studies
In recent years, three prototypical examples of populism in Southeast Asia have emerged: Thaksin, Prabowo and Duterte. The paper shows that it is neither an exclusionary right-wing populism like in Europe nor an inclusionary left-wing populism such as in Latin America. It is a form of anti-democratic right-wing populism with some leftist and neoliberal leanings, weak ethno-nationalist foundations, and inconsistent policy initiatives. This polyvalent populism is a result of cultural legacies (especially the weakening of the political left), personalist political parties, the crisis of liberal reformism to which populism serves as a counter-ideology, the economic interests of oligarchs, and the typical constraints of middle-income countries dependently integrated into global markets and with large segments of the population living in poverty or belonging to a middle class threatened by social decline.
- Reasons of State: Making Sense in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia Iza Hussin University of Cambridge
What varieties of explanation do state outlets deploy, of what kinds of reason and unreason do these comprise, and what expectations of credulity and response do they contain? How do these reflect, feed or refract prevailing explanations in the public sphere? How do state discourses respond to public varieties of unreason, particularly where the supernatural is concerned? This paper compares the politics of the supernatural in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, in light of scholarship on the place of the supernatural in the study of politics, and with particular attention to recent events in the public sphere in each case.
It has been argued that Southeast Asia is in the vanguard of a worldwide move towards illiberal and authoritarian forms of politics. In recent years the region has notably witnessed a return to forms of strongman politics reminiscent of those that were common throughout the region in the 1960s. Yet Southeast Asian states frequently combine liberal and illiberal elements in unexpected and incongruous ways. With these developments in mind and using the liberal state as a conceptual focal point, this panel seeks to answer questions about how Southeast Asian political actors struggle to shape political institutions, policies, and practices in ways that have implications for the character of the state on dimensions of relevance to liberal concerns broadly conceived. How are popular and populist movements and leaders contesting rival conceptions of “the people” and its “others,” and with what consequences? How are political actors managing religious demands and challenges to the state’s authority and legitimacy? How far are civil society activists advocating universal values, often articulated in the liberal language of individual rights and freedoms, able to establish and defend islands of liberalism within otherwise undemocratic and illiberal regimes? To what extent are formal institutional arrangements that are (ostensibly) designed to safeguard the rights and freedoms of citizens, such as constitutional courts, able to fulfil such roles?