The Roots of Resilience: Party Machines and Grassroots Politics in Singapore and Malaysia

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Meredith L. Weiss

The Roots of Resilience examines politics from the ground up in Singapore and Malaysia—two regimes that blend politically liberal and authoritarian features in their governance. Although curbed civil liberties and a dose of coercion help sustain these regimes, selectively structured state policies and patronage, partisan machines that effectively stand in for local governments, and diligently sustained clientelist relations between politicians and constituents are equally important. Although key attributes of Singapore and Malaysia differ, affecting the scope, character, and balance among national parties and policies, local machines, and personalized linkages—and notwithstanding a momentous change of government in Malaysia in 2018—many similarities remain in the way their dominant political parties have evolved and developed their relationships with the ground.

As Meredith Weiss shows, taken together, these attributes accustom citizens to the system in place, making meaningful change in electoral mobilization and policymaking all the harder. This authoritarian acculturation is key to both regimes' durability, but, given weaker party competition and party–civil society links, stronger in Singapore than Malaysia. High levels of authoritarian acculturation, amplifying the political payoffs of what parties and politicians actually provide their constituents, explain why electoral turnover alone would be insufficient for real regime change in either state.

“The knowledge of contemporary grassroots politics and historical political development in both Malaysia and Singapore that Weiss brings to bear in this book is beyond impressive. Roots of Resilience is a major contribution that will be widely read for a very long time.”
- Dan Slater, University of Michigan

Meredith L. Weiss is professor of Political Science in the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She is the author of Protest and Possibilities: Civil Society and Coalitions for Political Change in Malaysia (Stanford) and Student Activism in Malaysia: Crucible, Mirror, Sideshow (SEAP/NUS Press), and the editor or co-editor of ten books.

Publication year: 2020
288 pp / 
229 X 152mm
Partner Publishers: purchased from Cornell University Press