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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

Solidarity  

Arto Laitinen

Solidarity is widely held to be an under-theorized, elusive, or vague notion, and there is no clear-cut canon of theories of solidarity, but there are some core intuitions on this subject that rival theories try to capture in different ways. One such core intuition is that solidarity concerns people who share their lives and whose fates are tied together—social solidarity, civic solidarity, or group solidarity are related to the strength of ties of dependency and mutual support of people who are “in the same boat.” Another core intuition is that solidarity can be extended even beyond one’s own society, community, or group—maximally to the whole of humankind. Nonexclusive human solidarity can play a vital role in sustaining moral standards and for example in the collective measures against climate change or a pandemic. A third core intuition is that solidarity can be needed and expressed in struggles against injustice or wrongs of various sorts. If the first core idea of solidarity concerns the normal stages of society, the third concerns the even revolutionary struggles to change important aspects of the existing forms of life. The metaphor of “being in the same boat” may seem suspect and misleading when attention is paid to the injustices of current arrangements—instead, what is needed is political solidarity in the attempt to fight those injustices. A fourth core intuition is that the dark side of solidarity raises suspicion: An internally solidary group may be repressive of the individuality of the members, it may be parochial and sometimes even lead to a dehumanization of outsiders, and it may be exercised in pursuit of unjustifiable ends. These forms of solidarity are discussed in the introduction (“Solidarity: Toward More Detailed Conceptions”). Among the theoretical questions concerning solidarity are, first of all, what exactly is it? Is it a specific type of relationship one can have (like friendship), or can any relationship, group, or way of acting be more or less solidary (like being friendly toward anyone, not just one’s friends)? Is solidarity a certain kind of action or a motivational basis out of which one can act? What sorts of things can be solidary (acts, attitudes, relationships, groups, practices, etc.), and can solidarity be realized or expressed via coercively sanctioned institutions? When macro phenomena are explained by microfoundations, is solidarity something to be explained or something that explains? Is solidarity a descriptive or evaluative notion, or both? Can solidarity be something bad? (“The Nature of Solidarity”). Normative questions concerning solidarity include: What kind of reasons or duties are there for being solidary? What is their relation to universalistic modern morality? What is human solidarity? (“Moral Solidarity”). What does thicker societal or in-group solidarity add to the universal demands of human solidarity? What is the relationship of solidarity to justice, democracy, social freedom or welfare state institutions? (“Perspectives on Societal Solidarity”). What is solidarity in the context of political struggles and social movements for change? (“Political Solidarity”). In what sense can these forms of solidarity be global? (“Solidarities in Global Contexts”).

Article

Homophobic Populism  

Javier Corrales and Jacob Kiryk

Populism often emerges with a strong homo- and transphobic orientation. This is the result of an alliance between populism and conservative religion. Populist movements have incentives to reach out to religious voters and vice versa. We argue that the alliance between populism and religion is both a marriage of convenience and inconvenience. Populists can offer attacks on pluralism and liberal social policies (e.g., pro-LGBTQ laws), which conservative religious groups often welcome. In return, religious groups can deliver loyal acolytes across classes, which populists also welcome. Religion enables populist movements to expand their constituency beyond their base of economically anxious and nationalist voters. That said, this alliance works best only where the conservative religious electorate is growing (or, at least, not declining). Even then, this union can still incite internal frictions within populist coalitions. These frictions tend to be more salient within left-wing populist coalitions than right-wing ones. This explains why the populist-religion nexus is more resilient among right-wing populist movements, as cases from the Americas and Europe illustrate.

Article

The Republic of the Congo: The Colonial Origins of Military Rule  

Joshua Shaw and Brett Carter

The Republic of Congo secured its independence from France in 1960. The French colonial apparatus bequeathed an ethnically divided society. Native southerners dominated the sprawling civil service and, owing to their demographic advantage, elected Congo’s first two presidents, themselves both southerners. Native northerners, otherwise marginalized economically and politically, dominated the military’s rank and file. This cleavage has animated Congolese politics since. In 1969, a clique of northern military officers toppled the southern-dominated Brazzaville government. Among its members was former paratrooper Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled Congo for all but 5 years since 1979. His tenure has been marked by massive corruption, gross economic mismanagement, and persistent human rights abuses. Accordingly, despite its status as one of Africa’s leading oil producers, Congolese citizens remain among the world’s poorest. To secure his political survival, Sassou Nguesso has used Congo’s longstanding ethnic cleavage as a tool: by directing state resources to northerners and using the northern-dominated military to repress southerners, who, after enduring nearly 50 years of northern rule, are profoundly frustrated.

Article

The Descriptive Representation of Women in Politics  

Magda Hinojosa

Women remain strikingly underrepresented in politics: as of 2020, women hold only 25% of seats in the world’s national legislatures. Studies of women’s descriptive representation can be divided into two broad categories. The first category of scholarship seeks to understand when, why, and how women are elected to political office. Earlier academic work on the descriptive representation of women primarily analyzed social (educational levels, workforce participation rates) and cultural factors to understand women’s descriptive underrepresentation in politics. Institutional factors emerged as a significant area of scholarship, buoyed by the adoption and near immediate success of gender quotas. Scholarship has also centered on political parties and contextual factors (candidate selection and recruitment processes, the effects of crisis). A second category of work examines the effects of women’s descriptive representation on the substantive and symbolic representation of women, and increasingly whether women’s descriptive representation begets more women in office. The scholarship on the relationship between descriptive and substantive representation has found strong evidence that having women in office results in the representation of women’s interests. Establishing how the descriptive representation of women affects citizen attitudes—such as their interest in politics and trust in government institutions—has yielded more mixed results. Nonetheless, the scholarship on the effects of women’s descriptive representation largely confirms that having women in office matters for outcomes related to policy and citizen attitudes. The rich work that has been done to date on women’s descriptive representation could benefit from expanding the definition of the term. Although scholars have relied on a head count of women in positions of power—and notably often just in the national legislature—to assess descriptive representation, a more expansive approach to defining women’s descriptive representation is needed. Researchers ought to consider other ways in which representatives can descriptively represent constituents, for example, by calling attention to their role as women in their parliamentary speeches. Moreover, the study of women’s descriptive representation would benefit from greater attention to women’s descriptive representation at subnational levels; too often, the proportion of women in the national legislature is equated with women’s descriptive representation, leaving out how women can be descriptively represented at other levels of office, in particular, in local positions. Examining within-country variation in women’s officeholding could be particular fruitful in understanding the factors that affect women’s descriptive representation, including the pipelines to higher office. Furthermore, studying differences in descriptive representation for elected versus appointed positions could prove instructive. In addition, more scholarship is needed that takes an intersectional approach to studying both the factors that help or hinder women’s descriptive representation and the ways in which descriptive representation affects substantive and symbolic representation.

Article

Gender and the Military in Western Democracies  

Helena Carreiras

Military institutions have been considered “gendered organizations” because gender is persistently related therein to the production and allocation of material and symbolic resources. Western states’ militaries consistently, even if unevenly, display three basic traits through which gendering occurs: the existence of structural divisions of labor and power along gender lines, organizational culture and ideology based on a distinction between masculinity and femininity, and patterns of interaction and identity formation that reflect these structural and ideological constraints. Although women’s representation has been growing, and women have been accessing new roles, positions, and occupations in unprecedented numbers, their participation is statistically limited and substantially uneven. Notable differences between countries also exist. At a macro-sociological level, factors that explain these differences relate to the degree of convergence between armed forces and society, external political pressures, military organizational format, and the level of gender equality in society at large. From a micro-sociological perspective, research shows that, because of their minority situation and less valued status in an organization normatively defined as masculine, women still have to face the negative consequences of tokenism: performance pressures, social isolation, and role encapsulation. However, this research also highlights two important conclusions. The first is that there is significant variation in individual and organizational responses depending on context; the second, that conditions for successful gender integration depend on specific combinations of structural, cultural, and policy dimensions: the existence or absence of institutional support, changes in the composition of groups, increase in the number of women, type of work, occupational status, level of shared experience, changing values of younger cohorts, and quality of leadership. The Women, Peace and Security agenda, evolving from the approval of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000, has become the major reference framework to evaluate progress in this respect at both domestic and international levels. Despite the existence of an extremely robust set of norms, policies, and instruments, and the recognition of their transformative potential, results have been considered to lag behind expectations. Improving implementation and enhancing gender integration in the military will require context-sensitive and knowledge-driven policies, the reframing of an essentialist discourse linking women’s participation in international missions to female stereotypical characteristics, and greater congruence between national policies and the international agenda.

Article

Public Policies Toward LGBT People and Rights in Latin America  

José Fernando Serrano-Amaya, Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez Rondón, and Natalia Daza-Niño

In the last 20 years, several countries in Latin America have sought uneven and disparate legal transformations affecting the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and collectives. These new legal measures have taken place simultaneously, with deepening structures of social, gender, and sexual injustice challenging their view as indicators of progressive change. In this contradictory context, LGBT social policies have emerged as a specialized field of state action because of two parallel trends: the macro political politics affecting the region, and the accumulated experience of gender and sexual social mobilizations in their interactions with the state. There are many variations of this emerging field of social policies because it is shaped by the meaning provided by local actors such as interest groups, activists, and policy makers, and their translation into policy lobbying, policymaking, and policy negotiation. As result of these innovations, gender identity and sexual orientation have nowadays entered into the language of policymaking and policy implementation. These legal measures have opened spaces for social and political participation that were not there before. Nevertheless, LGBT policies are new regimes of governmentality that control the inclusion of gender and sexual social mobilizations into citizenship and democracy.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives on LGBTQ Movements  

Jyl Josephson

The field of empirical scholarship on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) political and social movements that developed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has much to contribute to analysis of these movements and their political and cultural contexts. Empirical studies have examined LGBTQ movements in comparison to other types of social movements, finding similarities and alliances as well as distinctive elements. We have learned how LGBTQ movements operate in different global and local contexts, as well as how they interact with different kinds of political systems. Scholars have studied how broader social attitudes have evolved and responded to LGBTQ movements, and the way that backlash to these movements operate in different times and places. At the same time, the theoretical literature that grounds and interprets these studies contributes not just to the epistemology of social movements, but to understandings of the purposes of social and political theorizing. Scholars have examined the utility of different frameworks for understanding social movement organizing, such as the use of civil rights, human rights, and sexual citizenship frameworks. Scholars from the social sciences and humanities have at times brought different theoretical approaches to bear on our understanding of LGBTQ movements, evident in different perspectives regarding the theory of homonationalism. Among the exciting intellectual developments of the late 20th and early 21st century is the burgeoning field of trans studies and trans theory, of social and political theory informed by Global South and Indigenous perspectives, and from the queer of color critique literature.

Article

Bahrain: The Army and the Dynamics of State-Society Relations  

Laurence Louër

In contrast with some of its Gulf neighbors, Bahrain cannot develop a more socially embedded military institution that would be the engine of an inclusive nation-building process. This is because of the peculiar nature of its state–society relations, which are plagued by mutual distrust between the ruling Al Khalifa family, who hail from the country’s Sunni minority, and a great part of the Shia majoritarian population. As a result, the security apparatus, and the army in particular, recruits almost exclusively from the ruling family, its Sunni tribal allies, and foreigners. Totally insulated from the Shia society, the militaries never participated, nor will ever participate, in mass politics, which have been mostly driven by Shia-dominated protests. The noncompromise option taken by the incumbents following the mass protest of 2011 has entailed a shift toward a hard form of authoritarianism in which the security apparatus has emerged as a key actor of political control. The regime is increasingly militarized as the Al Khalifa militaries have acquired a growing weight in the politics of dynastic factionalism, with the militaries now being in crucial positions to influence not only the kingdom’s policies but also the internal balances within the ruling dynasty.

Article

Mobilizing the Invisible: Power and Marginality in the Black LGBTQ Community  

Ravi K. Perry and Aaron D. Camp

Symbolic and structural inequities that seek to maintain White supremacy have sought to render Black LGBTQ Americans invisible in the body politic of powerful institutions that govern society. In the face of centuries-long oppression at the hands of the state, Black LGBTQ Americans have effectively mobilized to establish visibility on the national policymaking agenda. Members of this community have demonstrated a fierce resilience while confronting a violent anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ mainstream agenda narrative in media and politics. This sociopolitical marginalization—from members of their shared demographic, or not, is often framed in partisan or ideological terms in public discourse and in the halls of American political institutions. Secondary marginalization theory and opinion polling frame how personal identity and social experience shape the Black LGBTQ political movement’s expression of what participation in politics in the United States ought to earn them in return. Double-consciousness theory contextualizes the development of Black LGBTQ sociopolitical marginalization in the United States and the community’s responsive mobilization over time—revealing the impact of coalition building and self-identification toward establishing political visibility necessary to improve the lived conditions of the multiply oppressed.