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Interconnected Asian History and “Open” World Orders  

Manjeet S. Pardesi

Historical Asia was an interconnected system of “open” world orders. This is a crucial theoretical takeaway for International Relations (IR) theory from historical Asia. In other words, there has never been one single order covering all of Asia or any of its subregions. There were multiple, unevenly overlapping orders in historical Asia. This perspective, which is rooted in the global historical approach to IR, challenges the Eurocentric notion of the “containerized” version of Asian regional worlds and world orders that only came into meaningful contact with each other because of the early modern European expansion. At the same time, this global and historical perspective also challenges all essentialist views of the East Asian past that characterize that part of the world as living in splendid Sinocentric isolation for thousands of years until China and East Asia were “opened up” by the West. Two crucial periods and processes of Asian history show the deep and transformative impact of the entanglements between South Asia and East Asia for Asian world orders: the Indic-Buddhist impact on China in the 1st millennium (and into the early centuries of the 2nd millennium), and the role of India in the so-called opening up of China by the West in the 19th and 20th centuries. These processes provide two crucial insights. First, historical East Asia was not a China-centered system for 2,000 years. The Buddhist impact on China had a profound impact on both the Chinese worldview and the world order(s) that existed in (East) Asia. More specifically, the Buddhist interconnections across Asia demonstrate that the “international” (or the global) was larger than East Asia, and that China and its eastern neighbors knew that too. Second, and relatedly, pre-European East Asia was not a “closed” system. While the expansion of Europe may have “opened up” China and East Asia in the 19th century, this represented the “opening up” of that part of the world for the West, and not because East Asia lived in Sinocentric isolation from the rest of Asia. Furthermore, Indian resources played a fundamental role in that Sino-Western encounter, thereby demonstrating the interconnectedness of the world orders of South and East Asia. Asia and its subregions defy singular and all-encompassing orders, and Asian history points toward a plurality of open and overlapping orders. Notably, the emerging regional orders in Asia are also pointing toward such a configuration. Asia is not one, but Asia is not disconnected either.

Article

Islam and Politics in Asia  

Robert W. Hefner

Muslim politics everywhere takes varied forms, but it is especially diverse across the geographic expanse that constitutes East, South, and Southeast Asia. Although in a few areas of South Asia Muslim polities were established during the first wave of Islamic expansion in the 7th century, Islam across most of this region arrived centuries later and through channels other than military conquest. From the late 19th century onward, the spread of capitalist modes of production, the rise of nationalist movements, and the development of new social media and new traditions of learning compounded the diversity of Muslim politics. Although some varieties of Islamic reform have sought to contain or eliminate this diversity, Muslim politics across the Asian region remains highly varied. The diversity has been compounded by Muslims’ engagements with the nation-state, capitalist development, and new practices of religious learning, association, and communications.

Article

Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore Revisited: Ideologically-Bounded Democracies?  

Kai Ostwald

Malaysia and Singapore were long seen as quintessential hybrid regimes that combined elements of electoral democracy and autocracy to achieve remarkable political stability: the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) dominated Malaysia’s politics for over six decades before its unexpected defeat in 2018, while the People’s Action Party (PAP) has led Singapore since the country’s independence and remains in power today. Both parties attained dominance through similar channels. UMNO and the PAP accrued significant legitimacy by overseeing decades of rapid socioeconomic development that transformed the citizenry’s lives. Embedding ideological frameworks—based on empowerment of the Indigenous Malay majority in Malaysia and overcoming systemic vulnerability in Singapore—throughout the state and the electorate provided electoral advantages and further bolstered legitimacy. This was supplemented by regularly reshaping institutions to strengthen incumbency advantages, as well as occasional usage of coercion to limit inroads by opposition challengers. Both regimes have evolved in key ways since the turn of the 21st century. UMNO saw its dominance gradually erode in the decade before its 2018 defeat. It mounted a brief comeback in 2020, but its decisive loss in the 2022 election marked a clear end to its hegemonic rule. While the PAP remains in power, it faces stiffer opposition and a “politically awakened” electorate, also marking a departure from earlier phases of uncontested dominance. While there is disagreement on how extensively these developments change the nature of the underlying regimes, several points are clear. Even if party dominance has declined, the ideological frameworks that both parties established remain intact and fundamentally shape political competition, which is free and relatively fair within the ideological bounds imposed by those frameworks. Moreover, the strength of the ideological bounds is such that no political actor has the agency to unilaterally remove them, which may preclude democratization as it is typically understood. On the opposition side, strong inroads, made in part by conforming to the ideological frameworks, have allowed opposition parties to accrue legitimacy of their own. This has made coercion more costly and has diminished its role in maintaining power. In short, elements of the regimes in Malaysia and Singapore remain resilient. But they are fundamentally different than during the peak of UMNO and PAP dominance: the opposition has accrued legitimacy, the role of coercion has diminished, and political competition now occurs relatively freely within the bounds imposed by the respective ideological frameworks. This puts the current regimes in tension with the assumptions underpinning their earlier “hybrid” classifications, and raises a question: rather than assessing how every political twist and turn moves the needle on a two-dimensional autocracy–democracy spectrum, could it be more practical to think of Malaysia and Singapore as having evolved into relatively stable vernacular democracies that, albeit not fully democratic by conventional standards, are as democratic as the ideological constraints left behind by their founding and long-dominant parties credibly allow?

Article

Russian Populism  

Neil Robinson

Russia has a long history of populism. Russia’s 19th-century populist movement is often seen as one of the founding moments of modern populism, and the movement and its successors were among the main revolutionary forces against Tsarism. More recently, parties like the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation have been labeled populist, and President Vladimir Putin has been called a populist. This article looks at these different strands of Russian populism. It reviews the development of 19th-century populism—narodnichestvo—and how it developed ideas about the possibility of constructing a Russian socialism based on peasant communes. It examines how narodnichestvo veered between propaganda work and terrorist activity and how this set the pattern for the revolutionary activity of the first populists’ successors, the Social Revolutionary Party, which was formed in the early 20th century. The article then looks at the different forms that post-Soviet populizm (as populism is labeled in modern Russian) has taken. It looks at the ideas of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and then looks at why Putin has been called a populist, focusing on the ideas that he put forward from 2011 onward about Russia as a particular form of civilization and state. These ideas, it is argued, formed the core of an “official” populism that, while effective as a means of arguing for Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, is politically sterile.

Article

Historical Injustice  

Robert Huseby

Historical injustice generally refers to theories that claim that past wrongs may have implications for current distribution. While it is not self-evident how to define historical injustice, many theorists reserve the term for wrongs whose perpetrators and victims are now both dead. Historical injustice thus concerns the potential claims that the descendants of the victims have against the descendants of the perpetrators. An example is the potential claims descendants of slaves in the United States have against the descendants of slave owners (or perhaps descendants of all non-slaves). While many find claimsbased on historical injustice intuitively compelling, such claims have also been subject to criticism on a wide range of theoretical grounds.

Article

Punishment and Social Control in Historical Perspective  

Michele Pifferi

Punishment has historically functioned as a key factor of social control. At different times, its mechanisms, techniques, and purposes have varied significantly, changing the authority and legitimacy of those who have sought to shape and govern a social order. The sociological notion of social control elaborated at the beginning of the 20th century refers to multiple elements that cannot simply be reduced to law, criminal law in particular. However, especially after the revisionist turn of the 1970s, the idea of social control as a coercive response to deviant behaviors through penal and institutionalized mechanisms has made inroads into research on the history of criminal justice. At first, the origins and development of prisons in late modernity as models of punishment in place of medieval corporal chastisements were scrutinized. The penal shift from the body to the soul, beneath its rhetoric of rationalization and humanization, was driven by conscious projects for controlling and disciplining a changing society by means of institutions of confinement. Although this interpretation was occasionally criticized, it contributed to the development of a critical historical analysis of criminal law in which the notion of social control can be profitably applied to the study of different periods and features of the penal apparatus. A first example is the age of medieval ius commune (12th–16th centuries), when emergent sovereign entities characterizing the pluralistic political scenario before the formations of modern states extensively resorted to a strategic use of criminal law to impose their hegemonic powers. A second case is penal modernism. In the last decades of the 19th century, when state monopolies of violence were undisputed and imprisonment was largely imposed, criminological positivism brought about a rethinking of the rationale of punishment based on the idea of social defense, which also implied a reconceptualization of criminal law as a means of social control.

Article

Nationalism  

Renaud-Philippe Garner

Nationalism is a set of beliefs about the nation: its origins, nature, and value. For nationalists, we are particular social animals. On the one hand, our lives are structured by a profound sense of togetherness and similarity: We share languages and memories. On the other hand, our lives are characterized by deep divisions and differences: We draw borders and contest historical narratives. For nationalism, humanity is neither a single species-wide community nor an aggregation of individuals but divided into distinct and unique nations. At the heart of nationalism are claims about our identity and needs as social animals that form the basis of a series of normative claims. To answer the question “what should I do” or “how should I live,” one must first answer the questions “who am I” and “where do I belong.” Nationalism says that our membership in a nation takes precedence and ultimately must guide our choices and actions. In terms of guiding choice and action, nationalist thought proposes a specific form of partiality. Rather than treat the interests or claims of persons and groups impartially, the nationalist demands that one favors one’s own, either as a group or as individual persons. While nationalism does not claim to be the only form of partiality, it does claim to outrank all others: Loyalty or obligations to other groups or identities are subordinated to national loyalty. Together, these claims function as a political ideology. Nationalism identifies the nation as the central form of community and elevates it to the object of supreme loyalty. This fundamental concern for the nation and its flourishing can be fragmented into narrower aims or objectives: national autonomy, national identity, and national unity. Debate on nationalism tends to divide into two clusters, one descriptive and one normative, that only make partial contact. For historians and sociologists, the questions are explanatory: What is nationalism, what is a nation, how are they related, and when and how did they emerge? Philosophers and political theorists focus on the justification of nationalism or nationalist claims: Is national loyalty defensible, what are the limits of this loyalty, how do we rank our loyalties, and does nationalism conflict with human rights?

Article

Institutional and Organizational Crisis: The CIA After 9/11  

Simon Willmetts and Constant Hijzen

The events of 9/11 profoundly changed the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. To begin with, 9/11 itself was a crisis that came to be regarded by many as an “intelligence failure.” Questions were soon asked about what the CIA had known about the 9/11 hijackers before the attacks and whether they could have done more to prevent them. These questions eventually inspired two separate official inquiries, exposing the CIA to considerable public scrutiny. Soon after, the quality of CIA intelligence was once again called into question. In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq. The Bush administration based its case for war on faulty intelligence that suggested Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. After the invasion, it became clear that he did not. Following another series of inquiries, mounting evidence suggested that not only had mistakes been made by the CIA but also that the Bush administration had exaggerated the intelligence in public and ignored the significant reservations and counterarguments within the U.S. intelligence community, which challenged the conclusion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Ironically, given that these two major scandals in the aftermath of 9/11 focused attention on the quality of the CIA’s intelligence analysis, 9/11 also shifted the main focus of the CIA’s attention away from traditional intelligence work. For obvious reasons, after 9/11, the CIA focused increasingly on counterterrorism. This changed the CIA. Counterterrorism, as opposed to more traditional intelligence work, often involves intervention, and sometimes violent intervention. After 9/11 the CIA led special forces operations and played a leading role in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, and across the globe, the CIA captured terrorist suspects, rendered them to secret prisons in foreign countries, and tortured them. After President Barack Obama closed the CIA’s secret prisons and ended the practice of torture, increasingly the preferred method of dealing with terrorist suspects was to kill them, via drone strikes or through special forces raids. As a result, CIA intelligence collection and analysis became less of a passive activity, where the aim is to understand a particular strategic question, and more “kinetic” in obtaining information that might help target terrorist suspects and mark them for death. As a result, the traditional line within the CIA between operatives and analysts began to blur. Moreover, the CIA’s increasing involvement in these violent, military-like activities exposed them to numerous scandals that became crises of their own.

Article

Administrative Traditions: Concepts and Variables  

B. Guy Peters

Contemporary administrative systems are shaped in part by their past and by the conceptions of good administration that are embedded in administrative culture. Administrative traditions shape contemporary administration in Europe and have been heavily influenced by European models. Administrative tradition means an historically based set of values, structures, and relationships with other institutions that define the nature of appropriate public administration. Seven dimensions can be used to both define these traditions and categorize public administration into four groups of nations. This explanation is similar to cultural explanations, but it includes the influence of structures as well as ideas. While the model of traditions developed is based largely on European and North American experiences, it can also be applied to a much broader range of administrative systems.

Article

Crisis Governance, Emergency Management, and the Digital Revolution  

Patrick S. Roberts, Shalini Misra, and Joanne Tang

Digital technologies have fundamentally altered emergency and crisis management work through increased potential for role ambiguity, role conflict, distraction, and overload. Multilevel approaches to improve congruence between crisis managers and their environments have the potential to reduce cognitive and organizational barriers and improve decision making. The future of crisis management lies in reducing the misalignment between personal, proximal, and distal environmental conditions.