Political Change and Institutional Resilience? Lessons from Southeast Asia


Single Panel


Session 5
Wed 09:00-10:30 REC A2.15


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Show Paper Abstracts


Myanmar’s rocky road to democratization, Thailand’s on-again, off-again military rule, Malaysia’s broken election reform promises and the increasing worry of an “illiberal turn” in Indonesia and the Philippines bring forth the issue of institutional quality and institutional resilience. Why is consolidating political change difficult? And, why are change agents so promising in making reform ideas during a political transition yet so dismal in delivering them after assuming power? This panel invites discussions on political change in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia. The panel hopes to raise few key issues. The first is to probe the extent of Southeast Asia’s efforts at political change and consolidation. The second, is to raise the issue of institutional resilience. It hopes to broach the issue of idiosyncratic institutional qualities in Southeast Asian political economy and whether they are crucial in explaining and determining state’s ability or inability to democratize and consolidate change. The panel also hopes to raise debates on the viability of the institutionalist argument in explaining the nature of political transitions in selected Southeast Asian countries. The panel invites debates on the validity of the institutionalist argument and discussions on ideas of institutionalism and whether concepts like path dependence, increasing returns, and institutional density are reliable tools to provide answers to issues of democratization, political change and consolidation. Another issue that the panel hopes to discuss is the role of political agents or political entrepreneurs and the extent to which they are able to provide and sustain change. It wants to tease out the question of whether consolidating change is highly elusive in the Southeast Asian context because change agents are highly invested in existing institutional logic. Finally, the panel invites discussions on the need to unpack our understanding of institutional change, that change, perhaps, might not be transformative over the short run, unidirectional or teleological in nature. This panel is intended for a book project. We are hoping that contributors to this panel will be part of the book project.