Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Economies

Emerging Capitalism in Central Europe and Southeast Asia: A Comparison of Political Economies

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Economies

Emerging Capitalism in Central Europe and Southeast Asia: A Comparison of Political Economies

Article excerpt

Emerging Capitalism in Central Europe and Southeast Asia: A Comparison of Political Economies. By Francois Bafoil, translated and revised by Michael O'Mahony and John Angell. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Pp. 256; originally in French. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2012.

Francois Bafoil, based at CERI/Sciences Po, Paris, has written a stimulating comparative reflection on capitalist trajectories in Central Europe and the CMLV countries of Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. These sets of countries share a similar Cold War economic history until 1989. Thereafter, the transition from communism to capitalism reveals two remarkable differences. First, whereas the countries under scrutiny in Southeast Asia are not governed by democratic principles--Vietnam and Laos officially remain communist countries --all Central European countries have become democracies. Second, communist economic arrangements in Central Europe collapsed in 1990 while the transition to capitalist arrangements in the CMLV countries is still ongoing (p. 141).

In ten chapters, including the introductory and concluding chapter, "the various incarnations of capitalism" are investigated. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the two sets of countries and spell out the conceptual parameters, Chapters 2 to 5 deal with the CMLV countries, and Chapters 6 and 7 with Central Europe. Chapter 8, then, compares the evolution of capitalist arrangements in light of integration into the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), before the conclusion sums up the main arguments.

A major strength of this book is its conceptual clarity, particularly with respect to the relationships between political governance and institutional economic arrangements. In Chapter 2, Francois Bafoil, inspired by Max Weber, identifies three systems of legal rule: one-person rule (Sultanism), rule by law and rule of law. Rule by law refers to a system or "implicit social contract" (p. 38), whereby the elite creates rules to maximize and protect their interest. There is room for a limited civil society and everyone is allowed to enhance their socio-economic situation, yet the bureaucracy/developmental state/authoritarian state controls labour and uses state-owned enterprises for its own goals. These three systems offer ample opportunities to scrutinize the various forms of capitalism: Sultanism in Cambodia (Chapter 5); rule by law in Vietnam and Singapore (Chapter 4); and rule of law in post-1990 Central Europe (Chapters 5 and 6). Other strengths of this book are the attention paid to foreign direct investment and national identity. Both sets of countries have seen a massive influx of foreign investments in many industries in the last two decades with serious repercussions for national identity; for instance in special economic zones in the CMLV countries where national sovereignty has been compromised in order to lure investments (pp. 54-61, 94-102) and the lack of endogenous research and development capabilities in Central Europe (pp. 136-37). This book also provides a good explanation of the special case of Eastern Germany and the way in which the German role model of approved to be "untransferable" and "irreducible" for Central Europe (pp. 128-35); mainly due to the absence of a rich uncle (of course Western Germany after reunification), and path dependent power structures.

There are also two weaknesses. First, the structure of the book is not entirely coherent and one wishes to see more direct comparison of the two sets of countries. …

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