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Title: Class Dismissed? Explaining the Absence of Economic Injustice in the NLD’s Governing Agenda
Authors: McCarthy, G. 
Keywords: Buddhism
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: SAGE Publications Inc.
Citation: McCarthy, G. (2019). Class Dismissed? Explaining the Absence of Economic Injustice in the NLD’s Governing Agenda. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 38 (3) : 358-380. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Abstract: Economic justice was the catch-cry of Burma’s independence struggle and a defining issue of postcolonial party politics. Yet, despite severe economic disparities and social vulnerability, class and inequality are now largely absent from the ideology and policy platform of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). What explains the absence of class inequality from contemporary Burmese politics? Drawing on historical research and extensive fieldwork in provincial Myanmar since 2013, this article focuses on how the junta’s post-1988 strategy of state-building shaped the political development of the NLD. It focuses specifically on how the military junta’s dissembling of Ne Win’s dysfunctional welfare state, control over market reform, and selective suppression of civil society privileged economic elites and religious philanthropic networks within the democracy movement while undermining labour activists and more overtly partisan groups. The resulting weakness of class-based interests within the democracy movement prior to 2011 has enabled commercial elites and market solutions to steer the organisational and ideological direction of Myanmar’s most prominent democratic political vehicle, the NLD, since liberalisation. Reflecting these social and institutional constraints, after taking office in 2016 the programmatic agenda of Suu Kyi’s NLD has plotted market liberalisation, foreign investment, and individual moral revival as the primary paths to a more “democratic” Myanmar, largely ignoring the dire inequality and economic injustices bequeathed by military dictatorship. If Myanmar’s democracy is to endure, the article concludes that structural reforms must be advanced, especially by the NLD, which encourage political representatives to address the precarity experienced by ordinary people. © The Author(s) 2020.
Source Title: Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs
ISSN: 18681034
DOI: 10.1177/1868103420911320
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
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