Department of Political Science
Socializing the Middle Class in Southeast Asia
A vast body of literature claims that the middle class is a critical force for democratic transitions, democratic consolidation, and political stability. Yet, recent events in Thailand and in other newly-industrialized countries indicate that the middle class often challenges democratic regimes or supports authoritarian juntas. How should we reconcile these divergent views of the middle class? This presentation argues that the ideological socialization of the middle class is one central tool that helps foster a class that sees authoritarianism as valuable and beneficial to its interests. Idological socialization occurs through the machinations of the state as well as through the writings of prominent intellectuals. The presentation will analyze in depth two important cases in Southeast Asia where ideological socialization has cemented the link between the middle class and liberalism: Thailand and Singapore.