Making Majorities: Constituting the Nation in Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Fiji, Turkey, and the United States

By Dru C. Gladney | Go to book overview

7
Bureaucratic Management of Identity in a Modern State
"MALAYNESS" IN POSTWAR MALAYSIA

SHAMSUL A. B.

MALAYSIA has, if in imperfect form, all the features of a modern state similar to the East Asian countries it tries to imitate, such as Japan, Taiwan, and Korea ( Yoshino 1994; Cho 1994; Hsieh 1994). It has a highly bureaucratized system of governance and a dependent capitalist economy inherited from British colonial rule, not unlike that of Fiji, also an ex- British colony ( Kelly 1994; Kaplan 1994). It claims a monopoly of power within an internationally recognized territory and proclaims that all the people residing within the territory are citizens according to the rules provided in its constitution. It conducts democratic and fair elections regularly, once every four years. Its modern education system has provided not only workers, skilled and unskilled, but also intelligentsia. Together they contribute toward modernizing the state.

Modernization, which comprises the rise of capitalism and the emergence of the modern state and nation, is meant to be a leveling process, one that promotes universalism and destroys differences. As in other modern Western) and non-Western countries ( Handler 1994; Okamura 1994; Kirişci 1994), however, replacing differences with universalism has been difficult, if not impossible. There are conceptual and historical-structural reasons for this difficulty.

Conceptually, the dismantling of local traditions by colonial rulers for purposes of domination affected the intelligentsia and the rest of the populace, in Malaysia as elsewhere ( Andaya and Andaya 1982; Das 1986). In particular, the modernist outlook of the Malaysian intelligentsia has been

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