The political economy of social control in Singapore
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Singapore is a highly controlled society. This thesis shows how the system of social control works as a whole. It does this by examining the details of social regulation in relation to political struggles, the phases of capital accumulation, and the alliance between the People's Action Party-state and foreign capital. A theoretical consideration of social control critically examines traditions which have related economic strategies to political resistance and to the role of the state. This chapter acts as a resource to identify and address issues which emerge in the subsequent detailed study of Singapore. The historical origins of current state repression are located in the British response to the anti-imperialist uprising in the post-war period. During the transition to political independence, the Lee Kuan Yew-faction of the People's Action Party built its alliance with foreign capital under the shelter of colonial-state violence. A survey of theoretical approaches to Singapore's political economy favours an interpretation which sees local struggles as the driving force of change within the context of the latest phases of imperialism. The greater part of the thesis concentrates on the concrete ways that social control has worked in Singapore since the PAP came to power. Major institutions are studied in depth: public housing, education, elections and parliament, and the law. Each highlights a major aspect of social control. The system of state welfare provision through public housing and education stratifies society, forces people into wage labour and induces political loyalty. Parliamentarism and the forms of liberal democracy help to convert submission into consent. If consent is not forthcoming, then the coercive powers of the law and the military are applied. The thesis concludes by showing how different political struggles were met by different forms of social control during the various stages of Singapore's economic development. The result is an overview of the way the whole system of social control works.