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Culture, relativism and democracy: political myths about 'Asia' and the 'West'

Lawson, Stephanie

Description

This paper critically explores the way in which some debates about democracy in Southeast Asia have utilised notions of 'Asia' and the 'West' as specific cultural constructions underscoring the legitimacy of certain political practices and institutions. More specifically, these cultural constructions serve as legitimating devices for a style of political rule known as 'Asian democracy', versions of which have been put forward from time to time by political elites in Indonesia, Singapore and...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorLawson, Stephanie
dc.date.accessioned2003-09-17
dc.date.accessioned2004-05-19T17:48:04Z
dc.date.accessioned2011-01-05T08:35:30Z
dc.date.available2004-05-19T17:48:04Z
dc.date.available2011-01-05T08:35:30Z
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/41726
dc.description.abstractThis paper critically explores the way in which some debates about democracy in Southeast Asia have utilised notions of 'Asia' and the 'West' as specific cultural constructions underscoring the legitimacy of certain political practices and institutions. More specifically, these cultural constructions serve as legitimating devices for a style of political rule known as 'Asian democracy', versions of which have been put forward from time to time by political elites in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. 'Asian democracy' is said by its proponents to reflect genuine 'Asian' cultural values such as harmony, consensus and community. These are contrasted with a set of cultural values assumed to be characteristic of the 'West', namely, dissensus, conflict and individualism. Apart from pointing to the inaccuracy of these claims, it is argued that these formulations represent an inverted Orientalist discourse which is best described as Occidentalism. Problems of universalism and relativism, especially as these relate to what 'democracy' means, are also canvassed. The paper concludes with some critical reflections on 'political myths', not simply in relation to Asia, but also with respect to the United States and Australia and their recent efforts to 'engage with Asia'.
dc.format.extent110704 bytes
dc.format.extent349 bytes
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/pdf
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/octet-stream
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.subjectculture
dc.subjectrelativism
dc.subjectdemocracy
dc.subjectAsia
dc.subjectAustralia
dc.subjectUnited States
dc.subjectpolitical myths
dc.subjectoccidentalism
dc.subjecthuman rights
dc.subjectAsian democracy
dc.titleCulture, relativism and democracy: political myths about 'Asia' and the 'West'
dc.typeWorking/Technical Paper
local.description.refereedno
local.identifier.citationmonthaug
local.identifier.citationyear1995
local.identifier.eprintid1983
local.rights.ispublishedyes
dc.date.issued1995
local.contributor.affiliationDepartment of International Relations, RSPAS
local.contributor.affiliationANU
local.citationWorking papers no.1995/6
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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