The Internet and Civil Society in Singapore: A complicated dance



March 10th, 2008

Long characterised as authoritarian in popular culture, the Singaporean political context is actually far from straightforward. State-led industrial policy in favour of high-tech economic activities has created some opportunities for social change. At the same time, conflicts within society itself have limited any sudden moves towards a more liberal politics. Many of these pre-existing conflicts have spilled over onto the minimally-regulated realms of the Internet, which in turn has accentuated the multi-dimensional nature of social struggle in Singapore. These developments have overshadowed the Internet’s ability to unite previously marginalised individuals across geographies.

Such a situation is likely to pose little threat to the continuation of state-led development in Singapore, even as the state continues to offer a wider variety of channels through which social dissent can be articulated. The Internet’s ‘information revolution’ has clearly opened up new public spaces for social action, which will no doubt continue to be utilised heavily in the years to come. But as long as Singapore’s economy continues to remain healthy, and the personal political inclinations of state and ruling party leaders do not overly veer from established ‘pragmatic’ norms, we should expect change resulting from social activism–internet-based or otherwise–to remain incremental at best.

Read the full paper here.

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