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Inequality and democracy in Indonesia

In the years leading to the downfall of President Suharto in 1998, there was growing public debate about the rise of a so-called kesenjangan sosial – or social gap – in the Indonesian media. Economic liberalisation measures in the 1980s had been followed by rapid growth of manufacturing and financial services, and signs of middle class affluence were increasingly visible in Indonesia’s [...]

Agglomeration of Inequality and Pressures for Democratization in Vietnam

Social and political conflicts are on the rise almost everywhere in Southeast Asia. In several countries, both economic inequalities and the political inequalities they foster are today challenged by public protest movements, even in countries such as Vietnam where rights to organise, protest and assemble are restricted. The political dynamics of inequality, how social protest movements emerge in [...]

Mobilizing around Inequality in Malaysia and Singapore

Survey data and pundits alike located the root of pivotal opposition gains in the most recent elections in Singapore (2011) and Malaysia (2013) in economics—specifically, rising costs of living, fear of declining opportunities, and awareness of a growing chasm between those with ample abundance and those with not enough. While electoral returns in both states reflected this economic anxiety, it [...]

Inequality and Politics in Thailand

Writing in Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville famously declared the ‘general equality of conditions’ the foundation of American democracy. For Thailand, it is different, for it is the general inequality of condition that defines it. Modifying Tocqueville’s words, we can say that Thailand’s inequality has a prodigious influence and exercises the whole course of society, by giving [...]

The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong: From Economic Concerns to the Rejection of Materialism

In late September 2014, thousands of people started to occupy major streets in Hong Kong which lasted for more than two months. The protesters followed the call of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement, which had threatened civil disobedience if real democracy was denied. This had happened on August 31st when the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee released its [...]