The culture of politics

Stephanie Lawson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The achievements of places like Singapore are usually contrasted with a fairly negative image of the 'West'. The latter is depicted as a cultural or civilizational entity in social and economic decline. Goh Chok Tong's speech in fact spent more time on the apparent decline of the West than it did on the achievements of his own country. Other political leaders in the region such as Malaysia's Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, have also been very vocal in condemning this perceived trend in the West - highlighting drug use, urban crime, single parenthood, divorce, and homosexuality as serious social problems. In turn, these problems have been linked to Western political practices and institutions which are seen as undermining important values associated with respect and responsibility within the family, and cohesion, harmony and consensus in the broader society. More specifically, social problems in the West have been linked to an 'excess' of democracy which, according to its critics in some parts of Asia, has bred virulent forms of individualism and grasping materialism at the expense of positive community-oriented values and spiritual wellbeing. A similar exercise in imagery has been carried out by some political elites in the island states of the South Pacific region. This has given rise to an idealized social and political abstraction known as the 'Pacific Way' whose major proponents have frequently condemned Western democracy as inherently unfit for local consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCulture and society in the Asia-Pacific
EditorsRichard Maidment, Colin Mackerras
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781134691296
ISBN (Print)0415172780, 9780415172776
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Ebook published in 2005.


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