Disavowing liberalism: recuperating socialist practices within global capitalism
In Liberalism Disavowed, Chua Beng Huat builds on his earlier work on Singapore as a “communitarian democracy” and analyzes three institutions that work coherently to buttress the legitimacy of the ruling People’s Action Party: first, the public housing program that requires the nationalisation of land; second, the state capitalism that is profit-driven, market-oriented, professionally managed, and resistant to corruption; and third, the “state multiracialism” that governs an ethnically diverse population. Chua rejects the idea that Singapore’s success rests on authoritarianism and free-market capitalism, as much it has necessitated political repression and outward-oriented economic policies. The three institutions have roots in the Party’s socialist beginnings, shaping the Singapore system indelibly, and they are likely to sustain over generations. Singapore’s disavowal of liberalism is significant in light of the crisis of the Western liberal-democratic order and the rise of right-wing populist nationalism, as well as the political developments in East and Southeast Asia. Hence, its workings and contradictions, and the larger question of recuperating socialist practices within global capitalism, need to be critically evaluated. A salient concern is whether the critique of the liberal conception of the self also entails the avowal of an alternative conception of freedom.
Liberalism; communitarian democracy; socialism; housing; state capitalism; multiracialism; multiculturalism; freedom
Notes on contributor
Kwok Kian-Woon (PhD, University of California at Berkeley) is concurrently a professor of sociology and Associate Provost (Student Life) at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research areas include the mental health, the Chinese overseas, war, trauma and memory, and Asian modernity. He has been actively involved in public life and civil society in Singapore, especially in the areas of heritage and the arts.