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2008 Malaysian Elections: The End of Malaysia's Ethnic Nationalism?
Unformatted Document Text:  the theory of consociationalism does explain much about Malaysia's political history, it has significant limitations. Malaysia's consociational democracy lasted only twelve years. How do we explain the remaining four decades of Malaysia's political development? Furthermore, consociational theory is static and does not address the challenge of managing religious pluralism to the post-colonial state-building project, nor does it explain the source of inter ethnic and inter religious conflicts. The competing nationalisms thesis argues that Malay paramountcy is a regime feature of the Malaysian state. It can be expressed through democratic structures -- consociationalism, or through authoritarian structures -- the NEP. Lijphart's theory of consociational democracy describes a temporary means by which Malaysia's ethnic nationalism paradigm was implemented. Furthermore, it shows how Malaysia addressed the challenge of religious pluralism by achieving political integration by means of ethnic nationalism. Other approaches to Malaysian politics have focused on elite bargaining (Lijphart 1977), interest group competition (Barraclough 1983; Camroux 1996), status group competition (Lee 1990), or in terms of command-obedience (Barraclough 1983; see also Camroux 1996). These theories suffer from a secular bias leading to the neglect of religion as a political variable and an inability to account for the persistence and significance of Islam in Malaysian politics. This can be seen in their inability to account for the Islamic revival in the 1980s and how it relates to Malaysia's political development. Also, where conventional political theories put the emphasis on interest group competition, more recent literature have shifted to the focus to collective action and identity politics. 32 The competing nationalisms thesis is able to incorporate these new approaches through its understanding of the state as a discursive field. 26 R. Arakaki - MPSA 2008 32 See Tarrow's Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective Action and Politics (1994:3-6) and Castell's The Power of Identity (1997:6-12).

Authors: Arakaki, Robert.
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background image
the theory of consociationalism does explain much about Malaysia's political history, it has
significant limitations. Malaysia's consociational democracy lasted only twelve years. How do
we explain the remaining four decades of Malaysia's political development? Furthermore,
consociational theory is static and does not address the challenge of managing religious
pluralism to the post-colonial state-building project, nor does it explain the source of inter ethnic
and inter religious conflicts.
The competing nationalisms thesis argues that Malay paramountcy is a regime feature of
the Malaysian state. It can be expressed through democratic structures -- consociationalism, or
through authoritarian structures -- the NEP. Lijphart's theory of consociational democracy
describes a temporary means by which Malaysia's ethnic nationalism paradigm was
implemented. Furthermore, it shows how Malaysia addressed the challenge of religious
pluralism by achieving political integration by means of ethnic nationalism.
Other approaches to Malaysian politics have focused on elite bargaining (Lijphart 1977),
interest group competition (Barraclough 1983; Camroux 1996), status group competition (Lee
1990), or in terms of command-obedience (Barraclough 1983; see also Camroux 1996). These
theories suffer from a secular bias leading to the neglect of religion as a political variable and an
inability to account for the persistence and significance of Islam in Malaysian politics. This can
be seen in their inability to account for the Islamic revival in the 1980s and how it relates to
Malaysia's political development. Also, where conventional political theories put the emphasis
on interest group competition, more recent literature have shifted to the focus to collective action
and identity politics.
32
The competing nationalisms thesis is able to incorporate these new
approaches through its understanding of the state as a discursive field.
26
R. Arakaki - MPSA 2008
32
See Tarrow's Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective Action and Politics (1994:3-6) and Castell's The
Power of Identity (1997:6-12).


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