Singapore From Social Democracy to Communitarianism

  • Beng Huat ChuaEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Springer Reference Geisteswissenschaften book series (SPREFGEIST)


Singapore has been ruled by a single party, the People’s Action Party, since its political independence in 1965. The history of the party’s rise to monopolistic parliamentary power was strewn with political repressions of radical left, throughout the entire Cold War period. It was without doubt a history of authoritarianism. At the same time, it had achieved spectacular national economic success within global capitalism, spawned an expansive middle class and improved the material life of Singaporeans across the board. In defiance of the current hegemonic liberal democratic capitalism, the ruling Singapore government has very explicitly rejected American liberalism as the necessary end point of Singapore’s political ideological development. Instead, drawing on its root as a social democratic party, it has reworked and reinscribed the idea of the ‘social’ and weaved it into a ‘communitarianism’, with supposedly Asian characters distilled from its multiracial citizenry. The concept of the social/collective/communitarian in practice is institutionalized in the universal provision of public housing through a national housing program, the redistribution of gains generated by state capitalism through the subvention of the annual national budget and the governing of race through the insistence on racial harmony as a public good. Arguably, it is the concrete benefits delivered by these institutions which have the collective well-being as the core value that explains the longevity of the People’s Action Party in parliamentary power rather than its diminishing authoritarianism in these post-Cold War days.


Singapore Social democracy State capitalism Multiracialism Anti-liberalism 


  1. Bell, Daniel A. 2004. Communitarian philosophy and East Asian politics. In Communitarian politics in Asia, ed. Chua Beng Huat, 25–45. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, Daniel A. 2008. China’s new confucianism: Politics and everyday life in a changing society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, Daniel A., and Hahm Chaibong, eds. 2003. Confucianism for the modern world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bowen, John. 1986. On the political construction of tradition: Gotong Royong in Indonesia. Journal of Asian Studies 45(3): 545–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chang, Kyung Sup. 2009. The Anti-communitarian family? Everyday conditions of authoritarian politics in South Korea.” In Communitarian politics in Asia, ed. Chua Beng Huat, 57–77. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Chatterjee, Partha. 2011. Linages of political society: Studies in postcolonial democracy. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Chen, Jie, and Lan Deng. 2014. Financing affordable housing through compulsory saving: The two-decade experience of housing provident fund in China. Housing Studies 29(7): 937–958.Google Scholar
  8. Cheng, Siok Wah. 1991. Economic change and industrialization. In A history of Singapore, eds. Ernest C. T. Chew and Edwin Lee, 182–215. Singapore: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Chua, Beng Huat. 1995. Communitarianism and democracy in singapore. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Chua, Beng Huat. 1999. Asian values’ discourse and the resurrection of the social. Positions: East Asian Culture Critiques 7(2): 573–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chua, Beng Huat, ed. 2000. Consumption in Asia: Lifestyles and identities. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Chua, Beng Huat. 2014. Navigating between limits: Future of public housing in Singapore. Housing Studies 29(4): 520–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chua, Beng Huat. 2015. Financializing public housing as an asset for retirement in Singapore. International Journal of Housing Policy 15(4): 27–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dallmayr, Fred. 1996. Democracy and multiculturalism. In Democracy and difference: Contesting the boundaries of the political, ed. Seyla Benhabib, 278–294. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Davis, Deborah. 2005. Urban consumer culture. In Culture in contemporary China, eds. M. Hockx and J. Strauss, 170–187. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Etzioni, Amitai, ed. 1998. The essential communitarian reader. Boulder: Rowan and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. Fukuyama, Francis. 1992. The end of history and the last man. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  18. Goh, Keng Swee. 1972. Socialism in Singapore. In The Economic of Modernization, ed. Goh Keng Swee, 209–15. Singapore: Asia Pacific Press.Google Scholar
  19. Gray, John. 1995. Enlightenment’s wake: Politics and culture at the close of the modern age. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Han, Fook Kwong, et al. 2011. Lee Kuan Yew: Hard truths to keep Singapore going. Singapore: Straits Time Press.Google Scholar
  21. Heryanto, Ariel. 2008. Pop culture and competing identities. In Popular culture in Indonesia: Fluid identities in Post-authoritarian Politics, ed. Ariel Heryanto, 1–36. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Jayasuriya, Kanishka. 2007. The rule of law and capitalism in Asia. The Pacific Review 9(3): 367–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kahn, Joel. 2006. Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Singapore University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Kim Dae, Jung. 1994. Is culture destiny? The myth of Asia’s anti-democratic values. Foreign Affairs 73(6): 189–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Koh, T. T. B. 1967. The law of compulsory land acquisition in Singapore. The Malayan Law Journal 35: 9–22.Google Scholar
  26. Kuo, Eddie C. Y. 1989. The promotion of confucian ethics in Singapore: A sociological analysis. Singapore: Commentary 7: 24–25.Google Scholar
  27. Kuo, Eddie C.Y., Jon Quah, and Tong Chee Kiong. 1988. Religion and religious revivalism in Singapore. Singapore: Ministry of Community Development.Google Scholar
  28. Lee, Kuan Yew. 2016. A chance of a lifetime. Interview with Liu Thai Ker. In A chance of a lifetime: Lee Kuan Yew and the physical transformation of Singapore, 16–19. Singapore: Centre for Liveable Cities and the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities.Google Scholar
  29. Lew, Seok-Choon, Woo-Young Choi, and Hye Suk Wang. 2011. Confucian ethics and the spirit of capitalism in Korea: The significance of filial piety. Journal of East Asian Studies 11(1): 171–196.Google Scholar
  30. Lodge, G. C., and Ezra Vogel, eds. 1987. Ideology and national competitiveness: An analysis of nine countries. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  31. Low, Linda. 2003. Sustaining the competitiveness of Singapore the knowledge based global economy. In Sustaining Competitiveness in the New Global Economy, ed. Ramkishen S. Rajan, 135–50. Cheltenham, UK: Institute of Policy Studies.Google Scholar
  32. Lukes, Steven. 1973. Individualism. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.Google Scholar
  33. MacFarquar, Roderick. 1980. The post-Confucian challenge. Economist, 9 Feb.Google Scholar
  34. Mauzy, Diane K., and R. S. Milne. 2002. Singapore politics under the people’s action party. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Mudhall, Stephen, and Adam Swift. 1992. Liberals and communitarians. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  36. Nasir, Kamaludeen Mohamed, and Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied. 2009. Muslims as minorities: History and social realities of muslims in Singapore. Bangi: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Press.Google Scholar
  37. Ong, Aihwa. 2006. Neoliberalism as exception: Mutations in citizenship and sovereignty. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ow, Chin Hock. 1976. Singapore. In The role of public enterprise in national development in Southeast Asia: problems and prospects, ed. Nguyen-Truong, 153–254. Singapore: Regional Institute of Higher Education Development.Google Scholar
  39. Poh, Soo Kai, Kok Fang Tan, and Lysa Hong, eds. 2013. The 1963 operation coldstore in Singapore: Commemorating 50 years. Kuala Lumpur: Strategic Information and Development Centre.Google Scholar
  40. Rahim, Lily Zubaidah. 1998. The Singapore dilemma: The political and educational marginality of the malay community. Singapore: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Rajah, Jothie. 2012. Authoritarian rule of law: legislation, discourse and legitimacy in Singapore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Robison, Richard. 1996. The politics of Asian values. The Pacific Review 9(3): 309–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rodan, Garry. 1989. The political economy of Singapore’s industrialization: National state and international capital. Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  44. Rodan, Garry, and Caroline Hughes. 2014. The politics of accountability in Southeast Asia: The dominance of moral ideologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Schein, Edgar H. 1996. Strategic Pragmatism: The culture of the EDB. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  46. Tan, Tai Yong. 2001. Singapore: Civil-military fusion. In Coercion and government: The declining political role of the military in Asia, ed. M. Alagappa, 276–293. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Tan, Tai Yong. 2008. Creating Greater Malaysia: Decolonization and politics of merger. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  48. Tan, Kenneth Paul. 2013. Meritocracy and political liberalization in Singapore. In The East Asian challenge for democracy: Political meritocracy in comparative perspective, eds. Daniel A. Bell and Chenyang Li, 314–339. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Tu, Weiming, ed. 1991. The Triadic chord: Confucian ethics, industrial East Asia and Max Weber. Singapore: Institute of East Asian Philosophy.Google Scholar
  50. Vasu, Norman. 2012. Governance through difference in Singapore. Asian Survey 52(4): 734–753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Visscher, Sikko. 2007. The business of politics and ethnicity: A history of the Singapore Chinese chamber of commerce and industry. Singapore: NUS Press.Google Scholar
  52. Vogel, Ezra. 1979. Japan as number one: Lessons for America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Williams, Leonard. 1997. American liberalism and ideological change. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Wong, Aline K., and Stephen H. K. Yeh, eds. 1985. Housing a Nation: 25 years of public housing in Singapore. Singapore: Housing and Development Board.Google Scholar
  55. Zhao, B. 1997. Consumerism, confucianism, communism: making sense of China today. New Left Review 222: 43–59.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National University of Singapore and HeadSingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations