The Thai Ethnocracy Unravels: A Critical Cultural Analysis of Thailand’s Socio-Political Unrest
Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 583-611, 2009
29 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2009
Date Written: December 12, 2009
Jan Nederveen Pieterse’s model of ethnic relations is applied to the socio-political unrest of Thailand in the early 21st century. This paper argues that Pieterse’s model of global multiculture and multiethnicity complements Marxist and neo-Marxist explanations of the political unrest in a dialectical relationship. Thus, structural factors such as the economy and the political system are dialectically influenced by cultural and ethnic politics. The use by the royalist elite of state power to install and then defend a national culture (based on a civic religion) is explored in a variety of activities and spheres such as education, the media, usage of public space, economic public policy, religion, and foreign policy. Increasing efforts to defend the Thai ethnocracy are revealed to reflect its weakening vis a vis competing ethnicities and cultures seeking a place in the national culture and socio-political institutions. Finally the paper concludes that renewed calls for greater autonomy for minorities and for the renaming of the country to its old name, Siam, are signs that the country is moving to Pieterse’s third stage of ethnic relations called “ethnic competition” which explains the recent exponential increase in socio-political unrest throughout the entire country.
Keywords: Thailand, Cultural Change, Ethnic Competition, Ethnocracy
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