Saturday, September 29, 2007

Development and Security in Southeast Asia, vol. 3-Globalization (A Kasarinlan Review)

David B. Dewitt and Carolina G. Hernandez, eds. Globalization. Vol. 3 of Development and Security in Southeast Asia. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2003. 248 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 19, 1 (2004): 222-227.

Southeast Asia became the locus of major academic discussions with the onset of the region’s annus horribilis—the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The predicament provided an interesting backdrop to understand how the dynamics of globalization exacerbated the economic catastrophe and regionalized human insecurity. Several discourses surfaced exploring how globalization forces reconfigured intraregional relations. Most prominent is the question whether the crisis weakened the legitimacy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states to respond to international shocks. This inquiry attempted to decipher the linkage between the emergence of transnational governance and the erosion of efficacy of Southeast Asian governments especially in economic field. Regional observers concluded that the active participation of multilateral organizations such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) in rebuilding the region’s ailing market significantly restricted the policy prerogatives of ASEAN governments. Some likewise hypothesized that the economic slowdown was triggered by the type of globalization espoused by the neoliberals—a project which endeavors to pattern the region’s economy according to the West’s market template. Nonetheless, the crisis challenged neoliberalism’s underpinning assumptions, particularly the ascendancy of the Washington consensus—liberalization, privatization and stabilization—which guided world economies since the post-World War II period. In all of these, the third volume of Development and Security in Southeast Asia unpacks the role of globalization forces in altering the region’s human security and human rights situation, social and economic development trajectories, peace-building initiatives and political stability. Ten scholars from Canada and Southeast Asia give flesh to the themes through four regional and five country case studies.

Soesastro’s chapter (19-40) integrates the chapter themes, arguing how globalization initiatives in the region have been state-led. Apparently, ASEAN governments, as initiators and promoters of economic globalization, have concentrated on completing “first-order adjustments” or policies directed to liberalize their economies while neglecting the implementation and monitoring of “second order adjustments,” or safety nets to cope with domestic, economic, social and political changes. The article highlights the general policy suggestions of the volume: abandonment of state-centric definition of security, strengthening of domestic and local institutions to introduce meaningful domestic political reforms and revitalization of civil society participation in development and security policy-making.

The relationship between economic interdependence and the war tendencies of states is theoretically and empirically contentious. Optimist scholars reason that economic globalization discourages states to engage in war since it can disrupt interstate trade. On one hand, the pacific effects of economic interdependence were questioned when politico-economic tensions erupted among Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Acharya (41-66) concludes that the globalization-development-security nexus has been confounded by the historical specificities of regional members. He thus explored the post-1997 scenario: interstate conflicts, military development, regional cooperative institutions and domestic stability. The Asian crisis greatly reduced the military spending of many states which engendered power imbalances in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly among the US, China and Japan.

The so-called “ASEAN Way” is an informal set of rules comprised of four cardinal principles: respect for national sovereignty, non-interference, consensus-based decision-making and non-use of threat or force. Through a preliminary discussion of the threats of state-centric perspective of human security, Lizee and Capie scrutinize how the sovereignty-enhancing character of the ASEAN Way undermines the concept of humanitarian intervention (67-86, 87-114). To reinforce this claim, Capie chronicles the vicissitudes of the term “constructive intervention,” first introduced by Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan and later Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in response to the 1997 Cambodian conflict. The term underscores the “interconnectedness between domestic conflicts and regional stability, and the need to resolve these conflicts in a democratic manner” (82). Lizee juxtaposes the concept with the objectives “flexible engagement” to dramatize how peace-building through consensus decision-making has become a complicated enterprise in the region. For Lizee, globalization hampers the development of a system of individual rights because of its tendency to reconstruct social identities around communal lines. Therefore, peace-building must go hand in hand with democratization efforts which can be enhanced by accumulating social capital.

Kraft’s article addresses the pertinent question on whose security ASEAN states are enhancing—state regimes or the peoples (115-138). Comprehensive security has been the guiding principle in the region since the post-World War II period. But this framework was challenged by the informal legitimization of political repression in the 1970s as an instrument of statecraft. At present, ASEAN countries either deny the existence of a “universal human rights”—as a reaction to the obvious imposition of Western individualistic philosophical standards—or attempt to define human rights in more sophisticated and culture-based terms. The role of economic development in the promotion or repression of human rights is another object of debate. Globalization impinges on human rights as leaders often make choices benefiting foreign interests to the detriment of their domestic population. Newly industrialized economies used state autonomy as a main political rod to discipline the market and society, even at the expense of the people’s basic human rights. Kraft’s article calls for a balance between the states’ protection of sovereignty and their primary responsibility to uphold the rights of their citizens.

Three Philippine case studies examine how economic globalization transcended the country’s social and political milieu. Economist Gochoco-Bautista (139-172) writes that the liberalization of the financial sector is a reflection of the country’s dependence on international market for domestic growth. Hence, the government must pursue the program in tandem with the establishment of consistent and transparent economic policies. Bautista posits that it is not globalization per se but inefficient and non-transparent policies which hamper the growth of the financial sector. Hence, it is imperative to promote good economic governance by strengthening regional cooperation and encouraging civil society groups to engage in policy and development discourse. Tangentially, Mendoza meticulously explains how globalization factors coupled with flawed macroeconomic policies exacerbate the already miserable conditions of the marginalized sector in the Philippines (173-202). Economic adjustments in the 1980s brought serious danger to the financial support being delivered by the government to the poor. Further, state institutions lacked the necessary safety nets to address labor unemployment and rural poverty. The vestiges of the Asian crisis were experienced by the poor through the following: price increases in commodities, change in their eating patterns, decrease in assistance from the government, and increase of dependency burden among families on their relatives. The expansion of the poor sector increased the underground and informal economies that thrive on small-time income generation. To provide sustainable livelihood, Mendoza recommends the inclusion of the poor labor power to industries expected to grow. The government must also protect them during adjustment periods.

A chapter by Angeles chronicles how the growth potential of the Philippine garment industry has been stalled by global industrial restructuring. One strong point of the research is the author’s effort to highlight the seven major trends in the manufacturing sector which are imperative in comprehending the current state of the industry. The chapter attributes the slow growth of the industry to its dual structure—a disjointed export sector and domestic textile industry—in addition to stiff international competition and the import-dependent character of the industry. A balanced agro-industrial development strategy (BAIDS) must be realized parallel to the vigorous implementation of a pro-poor development social agenda (including the empowerment of labor groups) and educational reforms.

Indonesian authors delve with the repercussions of the Asian crisis on the Soeharto regime’s political eminence. Sukma (233-258) explores the security problematique of globalization and development in his study of the Indonesian state. The elites of the New Order government pursued a dualistic strategy of maximizing the benefits of economic globalization while preserving the official doctrine of Pancasila from possible infection. This style failed with the 1997 crisis. Strain in state-society relations intensified and economic growth was not sustained due to the state’s failure to establish necessary mechanisms to improve governance, produce transparency and foster wider political participation. Sukma contends that the fall of the Soeharto regime, was not a sole product of globalization forces. It must be noted that it was preceded by two major events—the widening gap between rich and poor, and the people’s disillusionment with Soeharto’s authoritarian and personalized regime. Large private sector firms and the capitalist class in the country were also strengthened with the rise of the so-called “new rich” and pro-active young military officers who were exposed to democratization ideas from abroad.

In another article, Anggoro provides an in-depth examination of the multiple identities and roles of Indonesian military (259-276). To better comprehend the “flexible engagement” of the military with globalization concerns, one has to investigate the institution in three levels—individual, societal (group) and national. Indonesian securocrats has politicized security policies because of their identification with the political elites whose predispositions are directly shaped by globalization factors. For instance, the clamor among young Indonesian military officers for neo-professionalism is a manifestation of their constant exposure to the teachings of participatory democracy. On the state-level, the Indonesian military’s openness to globalization can be gauged in terms of its acceptance of international norms and conduct including the idea of humanitarian intervention. Presently, cross-border cooperation is hindered by its nationalistic culture. However, Anggoro believes that the institution will become more receptive to the idea of deeper security cooperation as it gradually recognizes its implications to international trade. This prediction, however, is not substantiated by discussions on post-Soeharto political developments.

Overall, the collection has apparent weaknesses and limitations. First, the editors do not offer any justification for selecting the Philippines and Indonesia as country case studies, falling short of the expectation that the book must deal with region-wide country reports. Consequently, it skips a rich source of information from other ASEAN members which could be utilized for more comprehensive and meaningful comparative discussions. For instance, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam are better models to explain the ability of states to adapt to contemporary capitalism than the Philippine-Indonesia comparison.

Second, the editors’ adherence to the doctrine of comprehensive security and its attendant principles must be taken with caution. As discussed by Kraft, the concept has been used by post-war authoritarian governments to advance the interests of the elites (116). Centralization of authority became the grand smokescreen for the maintenance of repressive regimes in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Third, the authors are predisposed to approach the human security-globalization question in a unidirectional manner: globalization impinging on regional and domestic concerns. Discussions on the role of state and regional initiatives in changing or reversing the trend of the globalization are barely introduced. Ironically, although the book desires to advance a people-centered human security approach, the case studies unwittingly project the need for more state initiatives in protecting the citizenry. The book regards the myth of the powerless state as erroneous: Keynesian overtones can be found in Gochoco-Bautista’s article; Mendoza’s pro-poor policy suggestions are akin to state welfarism while Anggoro’s paper foresees a state-centric orientation of the Indonesian military in the future. The overarching claim is that economic and political conundrums emerge because of the incompatibility of state responses to globalization requirements.

Since the state responds to globalization challenges variably in different periods and contexts, instruments of globalization must be re-examined constantly. Surprisingly, the trajectory of ASEAN as a regional government is not addressed in the book. The volume can be expanded to include the crucial questions currently facing the organization—its enlargement vis-à-vis its ability to reach a consensus, its effectiveness to respond to member-states’ domestic concerns and the role of external organizations in helping ASEAN reinvent itself.

On a positive note, the chapters can be commended for accentuating the contending issues of the globalization-security-development troika: survival of state regimes and preservation of human security, economic liberalization and domestic market protection, cultural globalization and national culture preservation, economic liberalization and political liberalization, among others. Chapter authors converge in the thought that globalization is an irreversible process thus governments must safeguard themselves from its unpredictable consequences. The policy recommendations put forward by the authors can be commended for their emphasis on the need to revitalize popular participation in ensuring a more responsive human security policy-making.
Ronald Molmisa, University Research Associate, Third World Studies Center.

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