Foreign Affairs' The Best of Books 2018: “Liberalism Disavowed: Communitarianism and State Capitalism in Singapore” by Prof Chua Beng Huat

Congratulations to Professor Chua Beng Huat, Department of Sociology on earning a spot on the Foreign Affairs Magazine’s The Best of Books 2018! In his book titled “Liberalism Disavowed: Communitarianism and State Capitalism in Singapore”, Prof Chua examines the rejection of Western-style liberalism in Singapore, and the People’s Action Party (PAP) forging of an independent, non-Western communitarian ideology.

Prof Chua focuses on three areas in his tracing of the evolution of Singapore’s communitarian ideology: public housing, multiracialism, and state capitalism, each of which poses different challenges to liberal approaches. Consequently, the PAP looks instead to the governing principle of social democracy, which emphasises society over the individual, pervasiveness of the state, and social redistributive policies.

“What we have in Singapore at the beginning of the 21st century is a PAP-dominant, single-party government which ideologically espouses communitarianism, politically continues to maintain the formal features of an electoral democracy, and continues to pursue economic growth, full employment, and the improvement of material life for Singaporeans – efficiently and without corruption” – Professor Chua Beng Huat

The book also examines the PAP’s challenges from an educated populace that demands greater voice, which has led to the liberalisation of the cultural sphere, greater responsiveness and shifts in political rhetoric – but “all without disrupting the continuing hegemony of the PAP in government,” argues Professor Chua.

"Contrary to the conventional wisdom, he argues that neither repression nor a cultural preference for authoritarianism explains the regime’s success; rather, the state’s successful policies—rooted in social democratic ideology and meritocratic leadership—and the island nation’s strategic vulnerability explain why the population has accepted an elitist, repressive system for over 50 years and why it will probably continue to do so." writes Foreign Affairs reviewer Andrew J. Nathan.

Congratulations on your remarkable achievement, Prof Chua!


Chua Beng Huat is Provost Chair Professor in the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. His book, “Liberalism Disavowed: Communitarianism and State Capitalism in Singapore” (2017), A Choice Recommended Title and a Foreign Affairs “Book of the Year” 2018, is available online and at all major bookstores.

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