The New Political Economy of Southeast Asia

The New Political Economy of Southeast Asia

Edited by Rajah Rasiah and Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt

This well-researched book examines the dramatic transformation of Southeast Asian countries from agricultural and mining economies to industrial nations.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Rajah Rasiah and Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt

Subjects: asian studies, asian economics, economics and finance, asian economics, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy


Rajah Rasiah and Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt Southeast Asia’s unique history, which covers some of the culturally rich nations of the world, has been shaped by both internal and international forces of change. The classical period of Southeast Asian history was marked both by the profound influence of forces external to the region and by a range of indigenous responses. Taken together, they shaped the elements for new forms of state and society, religion and culture, economy and commerce, labour relations and the environment. The changing contours of colonialization altered the patterns of political authority and economic development, tying the Southeast Asian states to metropolitan powers in the process. Primary commodity production – ranging originally from spices to cultivated sugarcane, coffee, cocoa, coconut, rubber, and mining of tin and later oil – became the cornerstone of the colonial mode of production. Thailand escaped direct colonial rule but got absorbed into the capitalist world economy. Resistance to colonial rule had begun the very moment colonialism started. Although Japanese military intervention in 1941–45 provided the initial escape from colonization as Indonesia declared itself independent from both the Japanese and the Dutch, a larger army opposed to capitalist relations was to play a key role in shaping power relations in Southeast Asia. Communist insurgencies gripped British Malaya and the Philippines while communist forces gained control of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from initially the French and subsequently the Americans. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia gradually integrated...