SSA 1201 SINGAPORE SOCIETY

Week 3 – State, Power, and Ideology
ROSE YEE HING LIANG

NOORMAN ABDULLAH
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE

Lecture Outline


• • •

Conceptual framework
History and national identity in Singapore State ideologies and the politics of nationbuilding State symbols and rituals

National identity in a transnational perspective

1. Conceptual Framework

(A)

State  Centralised government
 Territoriality
 Sovereignty  Monopolised control of force

Power

1. Conceptual Framework

(B) Power
Multi-level State power  Coercion: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” (Mao)  Consensus:

Material practices: economic, improve standard of living Ideological practices: national narrative for mass consumption

Balancing coercion & consensus

1. Conceptual Framework

(C) Ideology

A comprehensive set of ideas and beliefs proposed by the dominant ruling class of a society to all members of a society • Multiculturalism • Multilingualism • Asian Values/Shared Values State ideology - Adherence to the set of ideals stipulated, enforced through different state institutions

1. Conceptual Framework
(D) Nation (construction of nation)
Benedict Anderson (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin & Spread of Nationalism

An (1) imagined community of (2) horizontal equals, but with (3) finite borders
(1) ‘The members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellowmembers, meet them or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion’ (p.15)

1. Conceptual Framework
(B) Nation

An (1) imagined community of (2) horizontal equals, but with (3) finite borders

(2) Nations are communities “because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship” (Anderson, p.16)

(3) These communities are “imagined as both limited and sovereign” and have “finite, if not elastic borders, beyond which lie other nations” (Anderson)

1. Conceptual Framework
(B) Nation

Members are bound together based on a perceived shared commonality that is understood as a common “culture” – language, ethnicity, territory, religion, and history (Hobsbawm & Ranger, 1983).

“Invented traditions” and the inculcation of particular values and norms

2. History and National Identity

“Singapore was never meant to be a nation, does not have to function as a nation, and might function more efficiently and dynamically if it does not have the ambition of being a nation. There can be a Singapore without Singaporeans” (Kwok & Ali, 1998).

1964 Racial riots

1997

2. History and National Identity

 Singapore was a state but not a nation  Narratives of anxiety and “vulnerability” • • • •

Racial riots in 1964 and 1969 Economic problems from oil crisis in 1973/74 Global recession in mid-1980s Asian financial crisis

2. History and National Identity
 Singapore was “a complex, multiracial community with little sense of common history, with a group purpose which is yet to be properly articulated … in the process of rapid transition towards a destiny which we do not know yet” (Goh Keng Swee, Interior and Defence Minister, 1967).  Improve living conditions and transmit collective values and ideologies to secure political legitimacy, and mobilise support

(1) Multiculturalism
 

Practising cultural tolerance Acceptance of differences in practices, customs & traditions


Accord each community equality before the law, and equal opportunity for advancement
Effective model for racial harmony?

(2) Multilingualism

Bilingualism as language policy in schools


 

Increase opportunity of contacts between ethnic groups
English as common ground English as international language of commerce & science

3. Ideology & the Politics of Nation-Building
(3) “Asian Values” Debate

Ideolo3. Ideology & the Politics of Nation-Buildinggy & the Politics of Nation-Building
Like Japan and Korea, Singapore is a high-performance country because we share the same cultural base as the other successful East Asians, that is, Confucian ethic. We have the same core values which made the Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese succeed. If we want to continue to prosper we must not lose our core values such as hard work, thrift and sacrifice. The question is how to preserve them when daily we are exposed to alien influences. My suggestion is: formalise our values in a national ideology and then teach them in schools, workplaces, homes, as our way of life. Then we will have a set of principles to bind our people together and guide them forward.”
(Goh Chok Tong, 28 October 1988)

3. Ideology & the Politics of Nation-Buildinggy
(4) “Shared Values”
   

Nation before community and society before self Family as basic unit of society Regard and community support for the individual Consensus instead of contention

Racial and religious harmony

4. State Symbols & Rituals
Read: Leong, Wai-Teng (2001) Consuming the Nation: National Day Parades in Singapore

 “If individuals find the ‘nation’ too abstract an idea to imagine or even too distant from everyday life to identify with, then governments and political leaders will turn to more concrete symbols to personify, reify, and objectify the nation. The nation is concretised as material object: flag, food, product, or visual icon” (p.5).  The making of the Singapore nation through national symbols and rituals

2009

2010

4. State Symbols & Rituals
 Why are symbols an important component in the process of nation-building? How do symbols work?

1. Symbols bring people together and are markers of membership to foster solidarity
2. Symbols organise shared experiences and meanings, and helps to express important values of a nation-state

3. Thus, the national symbols of Singapore express the beliefs and ideals of the country

4. State Symbols & Rituals

NDP as secular ritual
1.

A set of highly structured, sequential, repetitive and stylised sets of visible acts mainly performed for symbolic value, which has secular origins
Display “the central values and axioms of the culture in which it occurs” (Turner, 1974:156)

2.

3.

Reinforcement of group cohesion through shared practices, participation, and repetition

4. State Symbols & Rituals
 Expression and performance of state’s power

Militaristic elements (the Khaki Nation) – drill, discipline, regimentation, orderliness, obedience – planned by MINDEF, masculinising the nation

Sense of “oneness in the parade”, but also separation and hierarchy between officials, participants, and spectators

4. State Symbols & Rituals
James Scott 1990:60 (cited in Leong)

The parade is “a living tableau of centralised discipline and control. Its logic assumes, by definition, a unified intelligence at the centre which directs all movements of the ‘body’… The leaders stand above and to the side while, at their direction, their subordinates, ranged in order of precedence from most to least, marching in the same direction and in time to the same music, pass by in review. In its entirety, the scene visibly and forcibly conveys unity and discipline under a single purposeful authority”.

4. State Symbols & Rituals
 NDP as Spectacle
• Large-scale cultural production to inspire awe and wonder among audience and participants • Laser displays, military stunts, fireworks, floats

 Ruling elite makes concessions in order to garner popular consent

4. State Symbols & Rituals
 Parade Themes • Ideological messages conveyed through stories & displays pertaining to nation-building

1. Multiculturalism
- “Joy of Harmony” (1976) - “Living Harmoniously in a Multicultural Blend” (1985) - “Many Races, One Nation” (1988)

2. Youthfulness
- Importance of youth in nation-building - Narrative of nascent and young nation-state

4. State Symbols & Rituals
 Parade Themes

3. Historical Past
- Obscure fishing village to economic powerhouse - Economic progress & hard work towards excellence 4. Narrative of Progress - Ceremonial backdrop of NDP - Location of NDP

4. State Symbols & Rituals
 Parade Participants & Audience • NDP presents a view of society emphasising consensus and solidarity through their participation • Audience’s participation and responses
"Loving Singapore, Our Home" was a heartwarming National Day Parade (NDP) theme, evoking the warmth Singaporeans feel for their country, and the comfort of home. I am proud of my country, and I look forward to this time every year, when I look back at Singapore with tears in my eyes. I am glad to be a Singaporean and will always call Singapore my home. (Law Yong Wei, Today, 2012)

5. National Identity in a Transnational Perspective

5. National Identity in a Transnational Perspective How is national identity shaped as a consequence of global and transnational processes?
Worldwide acceptance of the system of nation-states  To achieve inter-national legitimacy • Joined as a member of the U.N. (September 1965) • Formed ASEAN with other regional countries (1967) • Transnational interdependencies: nation-state is inter-locked with other nations

Sociological Imagination
Individual

Public

Global

What does it mean to be a Singaporean?

National identity and nationbuilding

National identity in regional and global scales; transnational interdependency

Conclusion

  

History and National Identity Construction State Ideologies & Nation-Building State Symbols, Secular Rituals & NationBuilding Open question: Are such ideologies, symbols, and power of the ruling elite passively accepted by everyone?

References
Anderson, Benedict (1983). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin & Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso. [JC311 And] Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger (eds.) (1983). The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge U.P. [HM201 Inv] Kwok, Kian Woon and Marian Mohd Ali (1998) ‘Cultivating Citizenship and National Identity,’ in A. Mahizhnan & Lee Tsao Yuan (eds.) Singapore: Reengineering Success, Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 112-122. [DS599.63 Sre]

References
Leong, Laurence Wai Teng (2001). ‘Consuming the Nation: National Day Parades in Singapore’, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, 3(2): 5-16. Scott, James (1990). Domination and the Arts of Resistance, New Haven: Yale U.P. [HM278 Sco] Turner, Victor (1974). The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul [GN473 Tur]

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