Globalization in Singapore: Economic Liberalization and Cultural Protectionism

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According to Babylon and Beyond, some of the greatest tasks placed upon the state is the revolutionary change in relations, in particular, state relation to external bodies. “ the growing power of non-state forces, the changing nature of economic governance, the reorganization of authority and power relations in world politics, the rise of global multilateral institutions and the de-territorialization of political economies.” (Wall 2005) Singapore is in fact, a complete model contradiction to this theory. Singapore, as a modern global city-state, despite its liberalised trade barriers is very autonomous in its style of governance. Singapore has frequently rejected the wishes and impositions of external political bodies and non-governmental organisations and in turn retained much of their politcal Confucian culture and regulations. By this I mean Singapore presents a widely represented democracy, though much of the power is centralized. In wave of multiple attacks from civil rights groups and other such non-governmental insitutions, Singapore has maintained policies of death-penalties, mandatory military and strict morale governance despite it being a trademark of an economically globalized city. This in turn is a paradox with its liberal economic rules and strict cultural regulations, contradicting many of the Malthusian theorists which insist nationalism and sovereignty dismantlement accompanies economic globalisation. According to Lechner & Boli, in The Globalization Reader, “Globalization redresses the balance of power in two ways, the most obvious is that it puts limits on governmental control.” They state that this is advantageous for commerce, as trade and businesses are able to move abroad or across boundaries with relatively little governmental reaction or intervention. Singapore breaks this mould. The paradox can be brought as evidence against my basic contention about the hollowness of state authority at the end of the century is that it is a western, if not, AngloSaxon Phenomenon and is refuted by the Singaporean experience of the state. Singapore has successfully placed itself in a category labelled significant “Other” in what is to be commonly perceived as a global capitalism and modernity dominated by a Western hegemon (Koh). Is this just another instance of Euro-centrism therefore to assume the declining authority of the state. Or is Anderson (1983) right in assuming that the nation-state is now little more than an ‘imagined community’

An important concept to our understanding of the Singapore paradox is ‘Globalization’ itself as Globalization is the answer to everything yet nothing. Singapore tops ‘Globalization’ according to The Straits Times (Singapore’s most popular English-written newspaper), which published a report by leading American Political Magazine Foreign Policy ,which calculated countries globalization rank with regards to cross-border flow of goods and services, communications and people. In his book, the Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman (1999: xvii) depicts the world as ‘being tied together into a single globalized marketplace and village’, driven by ‘the spread of free-market capitalism to almost every country’ (p. 8). This picture of a thoroughly globalized world, is often referred to as a ‘hyperglobalist’ perspective, this perspective has become rather contentious. Those scholars taking issue with the hyperglobalizers, have argued that the extent of globalization has been exaggerated and that, in fact, markets and organizations function more along national and regional lines (Rugman and Verbeke, 2004). My stance on

Globalization, and in particular Globalization in Singapore, leans towards the latter perspective. That although global forces are most definitely active, they may be differentiated as some are more applicable to different countries, and some are acting more intensely and at different rates to others. In Singapore, it appears to me that Globalisation is not in...
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