Middleman Minority Nation : Globalization and Social Democracy in Singapore
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The Singaporean state is a social democracy with middleman minority characteristics. This thesis argues that it is the fusion of these two – the culture of the middleman minority, and the statist corporatism of social democracy – that has allowed the Singaporean state to set up a form of social democracy that is capable of not just surviving but flourishing under conditions of globalized capitalism. The outcome of this fusion, I dub a “middleman minority state” (MM state), extending on the arguments made by Bonacich and Sowell, by which I mean a state that scales up the logic of the classic middleman minority to the level of a nation-state. The key difference between the MM state and traditional social democracy, I argue, is that the MM state does not depend on the ability of the state to exert political control over the market. Instead, as a small state operating within the global market, the MM state operates the same way as any middleman minority operates in a host society: by inserting itself into an economy over which it has no political control, and making money by entering into mutually beneficial and voluntary business deals with whoever is willing to trade. Theoretically, my goal in making this argument is to debunk two dominant perspectives in the research areas of globalization, capitalism and the state. On the one hand, this is the Marxist perspective, which commonly states that globalization necessarily leads to the destruction of the social democratic state. On the other hand, this is the idea that Singapore is best understood as a neoliberal state, and more generally that “neoliberalism” should be understood in broad term as a movement which seeks to make the market into the dominant force in human society. Both of these perspectives, I argue, fail to offer a comprehensive and coherent account of the Singaporean state, as both fail to conceptualize Singapore as a social democracy adapted to the conditions of globalized capitalism. The Marxist perspective, I will show, does so by precluding this possibility a priori, by defining social democracy too narrowly, and incorrectly. The neoliberal perspective, conversely, does so by always-already including Singapore’s form of a globally viable social democracy under a too broad definition of the term “neoliberalism”. Ultimately, my aim is to describe the MM state as a new form of social democracy that is set up to tackle the novel challenges of globalization. As such, my aim is to look at the relation between social democracy and globalization as an open question, rather than as a foregone conclusion, in our increasingly globalized world.