Final post-exam note for students of AS6011: State, Society and Politics in Malaysia

By Farish A. Noor ~ March 10th, 2010. Filed under: Lecture Notes.

To all of you who managed to get to the end of the course without suffering any adverse medical side-effects, well done. Now that the exams are over, I do hope that you will take a brief pause (a brief one) and energize yourselves for the next trimester.

For the next trimester I will be doing the Msc elective course on Discourse Analysis and Philosophy of Language, with a special emphasis on religio-political discourse. Information on this course will be put up next week on this page and my site.

In the meantime I look forward to marking your papers and the registry office will have the final results by next monday. I would like to add that it was a pleasure doing the course with you, and I wish you the very best in your future careers. For those who wish to join me for the next trimester course on discourse analysis, all I can say is that you must love punishment more than I realised! :)

All the best, and thanks again.

Dr Noor

Ps- For your added enjoyment over the coming weekend, I attach below the questions that you sat for in the exams today:

There are eleven questions in all, answer only FOUR of them.

All questions carry equal marks.

Total time for all four questions: two hours

This is an open book examination.

1. How would you describe the mode of governance during the pre-modern, pre-colonial age of the Rajas, Maharajas and Dewarajas, and does that mode of governance shape the form and content of politics in Malaysia today? And if so, why?

2. Colonial intervention and colonial rule radically altered the social and political relations of traditional Malay/Southeast Asian society, and one of the consequences of the colonial era was the creation of the public domain thanks to the introduction of contractual relations that were no longer based on bonds of blind obedience and loyalty. What were the consequences of the emergence of this new public domain, and could such traditional societies have evolved a public sphere on their own?

3. ‘Men make history, and the leading members of the revolutionary generation realised that they were doing so, but they could never have known the history they were making …. What in retrospect has the look of a foreordained unfolding of God’s will was in reality an improvisational affair in which sheer chance, pure luck — both good and bad — and specific decisions made in the crucible of political crises determined the outcome …. If hindsight enhances our appreciation for the solidity and stability of the (historical) legacy, it also blinds us to the stunning improbability of the achievement itself.’ (Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation of America)

Do you agree with this observation, and does it apply to the historical development of Malaysia?

4. Why is the social contract such a contested idea in Malaysia until today? Does Malaysia really have a social contract in the first place?

5. The NEP was meant to be a top-down mode of state social engineering that was intended to eradicate poverty and to go beyond the association of poverty with specific ethnic communities, yet why was it controversial then and now? And who has benefited the most from the NEP?

6. What do you understand by the term ‘statist bourgeoisie’, and what role has this class played in the economic and political development of Malaysia from the 1970s? Explain the nature of the relationship between the statist bourgeoisie and the state, the ruling political parties and the political system in the country.

7. Due to both demographic and domestic political factors, the rivalry between the two dominant Malay-Muslim parties UMNO and PAS has dominated the scene of Malaysian politics. What has this done to the role and standing of the other ethnic-based parties in Malaysia like MCA, Gerakan, MIC and DAP; and will this trend continue into the future? And if so, why?

8. Malaysia’s Islamisation program that began in earnest from the 1980s was meant to be the safest and most expedient means of negating the threat of religiously-inspired violence and political opposition to the ruling government. What is its legacy today and could the successive governments of Malaysia have found another way of dealing with the rise of Islamist opposition in the country.

9. Up to 1997 Malaysia – along with many other countries in the ASEAN region – was described as one of the ‘miracle’ ‘Tiger economies’ of the East. What was ‘miraculous’ about Malaysia’s economic development, and explain the nature of the relationship between the state, the ruling political parties, the private sector and the development process in Malaysia. How would you describe this model of development?

10. Former Prime Minister Badawi once claimed that he was ‘the Prime Minister of all Malaysians’ and yet the period of Badawi’s leadership witnessed more instances of inter-ethnic and inter-religious tension than ever before. Why?

11. What were the implications of the 8 March 2008 election results and could the election results of 2008 be repeated again? Explain why/why not.

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