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Labour, Democratisation and Neo-liberalism in East Asia

Chang, Dae-Oup (2012) 'Labour, Democratisation and Neo-liberalism in East Asia.' In: Cho, H-Y and Aeria, Andrew and Hur, S-W, (eds.), From Unity to Multiplicities: Social Movement Transformation and Democratization in Asia. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 45-82.

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Abstract

The political power of labour during and in the aftermath of the democratisation of East Asian developing countries often appears to be small, ineffective and segmented. Why did labour as a political force make such limited a contribution to the democratisation of East Asian developing countries? Does this also mean that labour has little potential in pursuing democratisation further? This paper discusses the place of ‘labour’ in East Asian democratisation. In so doing, we are also challenging the classical framework that looks mainly at the relation between ‘organised industrial labour’ and ‘liberal democracy’ in identifying labour-democracy relations. I argue that this framework tends to impose an ideal type of labour politics, frozen in the 19-20th century European experience in establishing the industrial workers movement and liberal democracy. The complex relations between the evolving social forms of labour and different forms of democratic mobilisation and participation of labour in East Asian cannot be addressed within this framework as labour’s engagement in democratisation varies with the particular ways in which capitalist labour is socially organised and gains new democratic potential the result of which may not necessarily be liberal democracy. My argument is outlined in four sections. The first part develops a critique of the usual ‘model’ of labour-democracy relations on the basis of which labour-democracy relations in East Asian developing countries are often evaluated. I contend that evaluating labour’s contribution to East Asian democratisation vis-à-vis the contribution once made by the industrial working class of the advanced capitalist countries to the establishment of liberal democracy prevents us from recognising various labour, struggles, organisations and mobilisation, forms of which are not necessarily in line with the classical labour politics. The second chapter outlines the historical trajectory of the political forms through which the contradiction of different social forms of labour manifested politically throughout the history of capitalist development in East Asia. This is followed by a section discussing the emergence of the new social form of labour in neoliberal globalisation and the contesting political forms of labour. The final section points out the delayed transformation of labour politics as the most important question to be asked in addressing democracies in East Asia.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: Labour, Democratisation, Neoliberalism
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > Department of Development Studies
ISBN: 9789675832451
Depositing User: Dae-Oup Chang
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2012 09:10
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/14237

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