The Power of Disenchantment

Part of the Contestations in Contemporary Southeast Asia book series (CCSA)


This final chapter restates the main analytical framework of this study as an alternative to understanding the wide and deep mobilisation of religious symbols and material resources in the transformation of state and society in Malaysia. The expanding palpability of Islamic piety has strong links to the proliferation, enlargement and accretion of institutions of religious governance, almost wholly funded by the state. This immense reorganisation and disenchantment of social life is not only driven by spiritual devotion or cultural ideology but crucially by the instrumentalist goals of power and control. This final chapter reviews some of the nascent reform overtures and policies, with regard to Islamic matters, by Malaysia’s newly elected Pakatan Harapan government which ousted the 61-year-old government of the Barisan Nasional in 2018. The Divine Bureaucracy is shown to be a formidable edifice to contend with, given that its power has enlarged beyond any elected authority. The advancement of religion and religiosity has inevitably taken on a secularising form, becoming more rationalised, differentiated, measurable, accountable and worldly. These qualities of disenchantment are not necessarily unappealing, but in fact, powerful.


New government Reforming Islamic institutions Compassionate Islam Bureaucratic resiliency 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Malay Studies and Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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