State-Led Modernization and the New Middle Class in Malaysia

By Abdul Rahman Embong | Go to book overview

9
The New Malay Middle Class and Melayu Baru

Introduction

In the preceding chapters, I have analysed the phenomenon of the new Malay middle class, using a combination of quantitative data from my own survey and official statistics. I have shown that the new Malay middle class, although relatively affluent, is of recent origin and still in the process of formation. Mostly products of the NEP, members of the new Malay middle class – managers, professional and administrators – have appeared on the historical scene during the last three decades of Malaysia's rapid economic growth. A considerable number of individuals from this class have ‘graduated’ to become big Malay capitalists, heading a number of public listed companies. The presence of the Malay capitalist and new middle classes has had a significant impact on the course of contemporary Malaysian history. Their presence has not only redefined the class structure and altered the class map, but has also promoted the agenda of modernization and transformation of Malay society, and, by extension, Malaysian society. To complement the earlier discussion of middle-class formation and the character of the new Malay middle class in this study, I propose, in this chapter, to take another route to examine the phenomenon of the new Malay middle class by presenting a qualitative analysis regarding issues of the formation of this class from the viewpoint of the redefined agenda of modernization and transformation of Malay society expressed in the concept of Melayu Baru (the New Malay). 1

The concept of Melayu Baru, advanced by Malaysia's Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his presidential address at the UMNO general assembly in November 1991 ( Mahathir 1991b), has sparked off a debate

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