Dictators, Democrats, and Development in Southeast Asia

Michael T. Rock

Bryn Mawr College Economics Professor Michael T. Rock has been wrestling with the question at the heart of his new book, Dictators, Democrats, and Development in Southeast Asia: Implications for the Rest, for a long time. Since 1995, he’s been wondering—and writing about—how Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand managed to succeed at both development and democracy.

At first, the Samuel and Etta Wexler Professor of Economic History turned to political science and economics for the answers, “but they were saying quite different things about these countries,” he says. Until recently, political scientists viewed their political elites as uninterested in development or democracy and more interested in personal gain. Economists tended to emphasize the degree to which governments followed the policy nostrums of the Washington consensus—to stabilize, privatize, and liberalize.

As he relates in a Q&A in November, Rock now says both sides missed the real story of how political elites used selective interventions and corruption to grow their economies while enriching themselves and those in their patronage networks. (Oxford University 
Press, 2016)

Book Jacket