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Thailand legitimation crisis

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  • sae57
    Note: My interest here is in the issue of state legitimation, not specific issues, however, readers should be aware that most of what has been published in the
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 11, 2010
      Note: My interest here is in the issue of state legitimation, not specific issues, however, readers should be aware that most of what has been published in the western press is no more than repititions of propaganda generated by the various factions for western consumption, often with little resemblance to what is happening here or what is being said in Thai.

      The events of the last few years in Thailand may usefully be understood in terms of a crisis of ligitimation, similar to, but not quite the same as, that detailed by Habermas. Habermas imagined a state and associated system(s) that already had legitimation rooted in the lifeworlds of the population, but that the system gained such ascendency that it "colonized" the lifeworld, undermining the socialization processes where by legitimizing belief in the system is instilled. Thus in Habermas' scenario, the system undermines itself.

      The lack of legitimation of the Thai state is evident from both the yellowshirt and the redshirt protests/insurgencies since 2006, and their disregard of what in more developed states would be afforded the status of legitimate authority. Protestors, for example in the United States, sometimes engage in civil disobedience, but such disobedience reaffirms the legitimacy of the state in that it understands itself as disobedience in an appeal to change policy. In allowing themselves to be arrested and dragged passively away, protesters at once reaffirm the legitimacy of the laws and of enforcement, while registering the strength of their protest. The legitimacy of the law is what gives moral force to breaking it. In contrast, the 2006 yellowshirt protests in Thailand not only demanded that then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatrastep down, but radically defied the authority of the state itself. They did not allow themselves to be arrested but simply disregarded authority, in the end blockading the statehouse in a protest/insurgency that went on for months, up through the coup d'état that deposed Thaksin. On the other hand, those protests remained strictly non-violent and did not seriously hamper the conduct of business, state or otherwise.

      Not so the second time around. After the coup d'état, a new constitution was promulgated, and elections held. With Thaksin in self-imposed exile and banned from politics, the party acting as Thaksin's proxy, Puea Thai, won enough votes, just over 36%, to form a coalition government and make a Thaksin surrogate, Samak, Prime Minister. The yellowshirts exploded, and though their violence remained non-lethal, they eventually forced their way through police barricades and occupied the statehouse, holding it for months, this time forcing Parliament and the Prime Minister to relocate. Entrenched and prepared for violent confrontation with security forces (one such confrontation ended in two yellowshirt deaths, with security forces pulling back in the end). In late 2008, having failing to force the government to resign, they occupied Bangkok's two airports, effectively bringing international travel and trade to a halt for several days. The impasse ended when the courts decertified the ruling Puea Thai party for election fraud.

      Decertification opened the way for the main opposition, the Democrat Party, that had also received 36% of the votes in the post-coup election, only slightly less than the Puea Thai Party, to form a coalition government, with Abhisit Vejjajiva, as prime minister. Now it was the redshirts turn. In the course of a March-April 2009 protest/insurgency, with the possible collusion of factions in the police and/or military they stormed and forced the cancelation of the 2009 ASEAN summit meeting in Patthaya, deeply embarrassing the Thai state. They did not hesitate at the use of violence, and heads of state had to be evacuated by helicopter from the roof of their hotel. Protesters smashed and nearly killed the inhabitants of an automobile they mistakenly believed to be Abhisit's. The redshirts occupied key parts of Bangkok, blocking main arteries and virtually shutting the city down. When security forces moved to clear these occupations, the redshirts fought back with molotov cocktails, grenades and a few guns. City busses were torched and propane trucks were stationed at strategic spots with the threat of blowing them up. There were two fatalities, when redshirts fired into a group of people barring the redshirts from invading their community.

      This year, the uprising was renewed with greater planning and preparation, with redshirts shutting down major parts of the city and refusing to disperse until Abhisit called new elections. They were better armed this time, employing lethal force against security forces—and in one incident against counter-protesters. In the midst of these events we were treated to the (televised) spectacle of redshirts setting up checkpoints and stopping and searching vehicles coming into the city, including police vans, to prevent reinforcements from arriving. The uprising extended over two and a half months, with the redshirts vowing to fight to the death, before they were cleared by (very slow to act) security forces. There were over 80 fatalities, including security forces; most fatalities were among redshirts and civilians caught in the crossfire.

      I will not here discuss the justice of injustice of the demands made by the various factions. Nor do I say anything here about the appropriateness of the methods employed. I simply relate these events to illustrate the lack of legitimation enjoyed by the Thai state and its symbols of authority. All of the governments that were the target of non-negotiable demands to step down, took office in constitutional ways—and were (and are) viewed by their opponents as utterly lacking in legitimacy, suggesting that the constitutional process itself fails to enjoy popular legitimation (not surprising for a country that has had upwards of twenty-five constitutions in the last 80 years).

      How did this situation come to pass?

      I argue that In Thailand, the modern state together with associated systems, the bureaucracy, the government (whether elected or installed by coup d'état), the judiciary, enforcement branches (the police and military) and the capitalist-corporatist economy, has never enjoyed widespread legitimation, and that what legitimation it may have gained since the 1932 "revolution" has been destroyed by repeated military coups and even more constitutions. But indeed the switch from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy was itself not the result of a popular movement at all, but of a military coup engineered by four Thai intellectuals from Paris and a General, implementing a change that the king himself wanted. Continuing the tradition, there has been a coup d'état every ten years or so since, most occurring with neither popular support nor opposition.

      The legitimacy of the Thai state—such as it has—remained, and remains, focused in the person of the king, with the political state piggy-backing parasitically on that loyalty. Thus, the military tends to justify its frequent take-overs in terms of defending the monarchy and the king, though there is every reason to believe that early on the political-military rulers viewed the king only as a tool to cement power, and that behind-the-scenes, power struggles continue. Thailand through the seventies may be imagined as a monarchy with a predominately local-subsistence and barter economy supplemented by crafts and merchants in the few cities, Bangkok itself, of course, being an international mercantile cosmopolis. The nation has been held together structurally by patronage networks and nationally by emotive illusive/enchanted attachment to the king, with multiple competing unofficial, nearly invisible, but very real power networks, controlled by the king and other factions of the royal family, old families, factions of the military, the police etc. That medieval, perhaps neo-feudal, kingdom was overlaid by a parasitic modern state operating to some extent as a cover for the various factions vying for control of the trade in opium, natural resources, weapons, human trafficking and the rest. There was little protest of such behavior because most people felt that it did not concern them—there was little sense that the state was theirs or that it represented them. At the same time, the state performed, if half-heartedly, the functions of a modern state, building and maintaining infrastructure, facilitating and regulating markets, encouraging industralization and the like. There were genuine efforts at development and democratization, with the military often functioning more as a development workforce than as a security force. But these efforts generated little sense of ownership or identification with the state, with loyalty continuing to flow directly to the king. Of course, the fact that the state and the military presented themselves more or less as servants of the King, were complicit in shunting legitimacy away from the putative modern state and its apparatus.

      Since about the 1970s, which saw a brutally-repressed student revolt, the first-ever bottom up, albeit middle to upper-middle class, uprising against the corrupt order, the national political-state-economic system has gradually begun to incorporate more and more of the population, as the pressures of globalization, among others, have forced the political-economy toward normalization as a genuine market capitalism regulated and supported by at least marginally democratic institutions. These systemic changes have generated a small but growing and rising middle class with direct interest in the state, as regulating markets, creating and maintaining trade infrastructure, negotiating international trade agreements and the like. The rural population has been drawn into the political-economic system a bit more slowly, as the money economy has seeped into the rural areas and as cities have come to provide jobs for internal migrants from rural areas, who split their years between, say, driving a taxi in Bangkok, and cultivating rice in Roi Et; and as rice has become a major commodity on international markets, farming has begun to become a business, with farmers taking a vital interest in the structures linking the farm through mills and brokers to international commodities exchanges—structures that are closely regulated by the state (and exploited by state officials). Their full awakening came under Prime Minister Thaksin, who focused more on rural development than had any previous government and whose programs aimed at turning farmers into capitalist entrepreneurs.

      Thus the modern state-political-economic system has grown and elaborated itself, incorporating more and more sectors of the Thai population (I don't think that we can yet speak of a Thai people) giving them pragmatic interests in its functioning. Yet this system has never enjoyed legitimation from the people (and we may see a connection here between peoplehood and legitimation). And as the state is more and more understood as a mundane pragmatic instrument, it loses access to the illusive, enchanted loyalty that continues to be accorded the king. Thus the various factions see the state as no more than an instrument for pursuing their individual projects, without the overriding legitimacy that permits of the position of loyal opposition.
      Meanwhile, of course, the old power blocks continue maneuvering behind the scenes, in part attempting to use the popular movements as pawns—but their time is clearly over, the red an yellow bees aren't going to go back into the box. That leaves us needing a functioning state serving the needs of the people, and with the generally recognized legitimacy to balance the conflicting needs of different segments of the population without risking insurgencies from disappointed groups.
      The system has "colonized the lifeworld", or rather incorporated a population whose various lifeworlds have never afforded legitimation to that system.

      If I am right, then it bodes ill for Thailand, as the lack of a generally trusted locus of legitimacy leaves us without a forum of national discourse in which resolutions and compromises, and reconciliation, could be achieved. The question then becomes not how to resolve the current differences between the current factions, but how to create a recognized and trusted forum with the authority, power and legitimacy to implement decisions. Historically, the most common way that this has been achieved seems to have been through violent revolution. I hope that Thailand finds a better way.

      --Stephen
      https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoacademicpapers/
    • Gary E. Davis
      Stephen, Thanks for your detailed discussion. As always, your accounting is very useful. Relative to a model of social development suggestive of Habermas
      Message 2 of 7 , Jul 12, 2010
        Stephen,

        Thanks for your detailed discussion. As always, your accounting is very useful. Relative to a model of social development suggestive of Habermas' modeling, Thailand seems to be displaying multiple stages of development in interplay and conflict. Implicitly by your account, recent political history is much more than a legitimation issue/crisis. It's a sometimes-tragic drama of hegemony and extended modernization processes. Thailand seems to provide a good example for understanding social developmental events relative to a model of social evolution. You give good evidence for the pertinence of a model of system colonization (which is more-or-less a synchronic notion), but that seems to be part of a diachronic process involving premodern/rural and modern/urban differences, and involving very unstable political learning processes and modernization processes regularly confounded by the corporate-military compact.

        My sparse awareness of events in Thailand is a matter of Reuters articles and New York Times articles. Your account is consistent with the information I've seen, so I'm reassured that I've not been informed by "propaganda...with little resemblance to what is happening...." You bolster my confidence in reliance on internationally-respected news sources.

        Some readers may feel a little bogged down by all of your details of protest processes before you provide your fascinating background narrative, so I encourage others to read the second half of your discussion, if they have not. It gives the first part of your discussion valuable context.

        I don't doubt that the government lacks legitimacy. But you seem to evidence that in terms of minority protests, rather than in terms of general legitimation deficits, since you claim that the state is ideologically justifying itself in terms of the same monarchy that the general public reveres (notwithstanding a vocal minority). It's important to distinguish legitimation problems/deficits from a legitimation crisis.

        I would quibble with your comments on civil disobedience, but I would agree that Thai state intolerance for civil disobedience is an important symptom of something. You indicate that "The legitimacy of the law is what gives moral force to breaking it." I disagree. It rather seems that the validity of moral principles, thus the force of moral claims, justifies breaking unjust laws through civil disobedience. But your point seems to be an important one: the difference between protesting law with an accepted constitutional order and protesting a "constitutional" order. Violent protest may have been forced upon protesters, but it hasn't been constructive for political change, only for broad-based political education, like guerrilla theater.

        The king will soon die and with that, I surmise, the monarchy. I hope that broad-based political education continues such that prospects for democratization can be accelerated. The key is *general* education that empowers the people to initiate economic initiatives that can feed into counter-corporatist modernization and financially support local political networking. The outdated notion of violent revolution was motivated by concepts of a competing top-down state that would distribute justice that grows democratic localities, rather than a grassroots-based process whereby the polis emerges from strong local engagements. Coordination of many local discourses may be easier than instituting a singular national discourse (or rather: the national "discourse" is an emergent property of the network of local conversations). Coordinative politics may be easier to engineer than structural-systemic politics that overtly competes with a systemic state.

        Excuse the hastiness of my comments, if I'm missing something important in what you've recounted. Your background anaysis of Thai politics is fascinating. Thanks again for your discussion.

        Gary




        --- On Sun, 7/11/10, sae57 <sae57@...> wrote:

        From: sae57 <sae57@...>
        Subject: HAB: Thailand legitimation crisis
        To: habermas@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Sunday, July 11, 2010, 6:54 PM







         









        Note: My interest here is in the issue of state legitimation, not specific issues, however, readers should be aware that most of what has been published in the western press is no more than repititions of propaganda generated by the various factions for western consumption, often with little resemblance to what is happening here or what is being said in Thai.



        The events of the last few years in Thailand may usefully be understood in terms of a crisis of ligitimation, similar to, but not quite the same as, that detailed by Habermas. Habermas imagined a state and associated system(s) that already had legitimation rooted in the lifeworlds of the population, but that the system gained such ascendency that it "colonized" the lifeworld, undermining the socialization processes where by legitimizing belief in the system is instilled. Thus in Habermas' scenario, the system undermines itself.



        The lack of legitimation of the Thai state is evident from both the yellowshirt and the redshirt protests/insurgencies since 2006, and their disregard of what in more developed states would be afforded the status of legitimate authority. Protestors, for example in the United States, sometimes engage in civil disobedience, but such disobedience reaffirms the legitimacy of the state in that it understands itself as disobedience in an appeal to change policy. In allowing themselves to be arrested and dragged passively away, protesters at once reaffirm the legitimacy of the laws and of enforcement, while registering the strength of their protest. The legitimacy of the law is what gives moral force to breaking it. In contrast, the 2006 yellowshirt protests in Thailand not only demanded that then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatrastep down, but radically defied the authority of the state itself. They did not allow themselves to be arrested but simply
        disregarded authority, in the end blockading the statehouse in a protest/insurgency that went on for months, up through the coup d'état that deposed Thaksin. On the other hand, those protests remained strictly non-violent and did not seriously hamper the conduct of business, state or otherwise.



        Not so the second time around. After the coup d'état, a new constitution was promulgated, and elections held. With Thaksin in self-imposed exile and banned from politics, the party acting as Thaksin's proxy, Puea Thai, won enough votes, just over 36%, to form a coalition government and make a Thaksin surrogate, Samak, Prime Minister. The yellowshirts exploded, and though their violence remained non-lethal, they eventually forced their way through police barricades and occupied the statehouse, holding it for months, this time forcing Parliament and the Prime Minister to relocate. Entrenched and prepared for violent confrontation with security forces (one such confrontation ended in two yellowshirt deaths, with security forces pulling back in the end). In late 2008, having failing to force the government to resign, they occupied Bangkok's two airports, effectively bringing international travel and trade to a halt for several days. The impasse ended when
        the courts decertified the ruling Puea Thai party for election fraud.



        Decertification opened the way for the main opposition, the Democrat Party, that had also received 36% of the votes in the post-coup election, only slightly less than the Puea Thai Party, to form a coalition government, with Abhisit Vejjajiva, as prime minister. Now it was the redshirts turn. In the course of a March-April 2009 protest/insurgency, with the possible collusion of factions in the police and/or military they stormed and forced the cancelation of the 2009 ASEAN summit meeting in Patthaya, deeply embarrassing the Thai state. They did not hesitate at the use of violence, and heads of state had to be evacuated by helicopter from the roof of their hotel. Protesters smashed and nearly killed the inhabitants of an automobile they mistakenly believed to be Abhisit's. The redshirts occupied key parts of Bangkok, blocking main arteries and virtually shutting the city down. When security forces moved to clear these occupations, the redshirts fought
        back with molotov cocktails, grenades and a few guns. City busses were torched and propane trucks were stationed at strategic spots with the threat of blowing them up. There were two fatalities, when redshirts fired into a group of people barring the redshirts from invading their community.



        This year, the uprising was renewed with greater planning and preparation, with redshirts shutting down major parts of the city and refusing to disperse until Abhisit called new elections. They were better armed this time, employing lethal force against security forces—and in one incident against counter-protesters. In the midst of these events we were treated to the (televised) spectacle of redshirts setting up checkpoints and stopping and searching vehicles coming into the city, including police vans, to prevent reinforcements from arriving. The uprising extended over two and a half months, with the redshirts vowing to fight to the death, before they were cleared by (very slow to act) security forces. There were over 80 fatalities, including security forces; most fatalities were among redshirts and civilians caught in the crossfire.



        I will not here discuss the justice of injustice of the demands made by the various factions. Nor do I say anything here about the appropriateness of the methods employed. I simply relate these events to illustrate the lack of legitimation enjoyed by the Thai state and its symbols of authority. All of the governments that were the target of non-negotiable demands to step down, took office in constitutional ways—and were (and are) viewed by their opponents as utterly lacking in legitimacy, suggesting that the constitutional process itself fails to enjoy popular legitimation (not surprising for a country that has had upwards of twenty-five constitutions in the last 80 years).



        How did this situation come to pass?



        I argue that In Thailand, the modern state together with associated systems, the bureaucracy, the government (whether elected or installed by coup d'état), the judiciary, enforcement branches (the police and military) and the capitalist-corporatist economy, has never enjoyed widespread legitimation, and that what legitimation it may have gained since the 1932 "revolution" has been destroyed by repeated military coups and even more constitutions. But indeed the switch from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy was itself not the result of a popular movement at all, but of a military coup engineered by four Thai intellectuals from Paris and a General, implementing a change that the king himself wanted. Continuing the tradition, there has been a coup d'état every ten years or so since, most occurring with neither popular support nor opposition.



        The legitimacy of the Thai state—such as it has—remained, and remains, focused in the person of the king, with the political state piggy-backing parasitically on that loyalty. Thus, the military tends to justify its frequent take-overs in terms of defending the monarchy and the king, though there is every reason to believe that early on the political-military rulers viewed the king only as a tool to cement power, and that behind-the-scenes, power struggles continue. Thailand through the seventies may be imagined as a monarchy with a predominately local-subsistence and barter economy supplemented by crafts and merchants in the few cities, Bangkok itself, of course, being an international mercantile cosmopolis. The nation has been held together structurally by patronage networks and nationally by emotive illusive/enchanted attachment to the king, with multiple competing unofficial, nearly invisible, but very real power networks, controlled by the king
        and other factions of the royal family, old families, factions of the military, the police etc. That medieval, perhaps neo-feudal, kingdom was overlaid by a parasitic modern state operating to some extent as a cover for the various factions vying for control of the trade in opium, natural resources, weapons, human trafficking and the rest. There was little protest of such behavior because most people felt that it did not concern them—there was little sense that the state was theirs or that it represented them. At the same time, the state performed, if half-heartedly, the functions of a modern state, building and maintaining infrastructure, facilitating and regulating markets, encouraging industralization and the like. There were genuine efforts at development and democratization, with the military often functioning more as a development workforce than as a security force. But these efforts generated little sense of ownership or identification with
        the state, with loyalty continuing to flow directly to the king. Of course, the fact that the state and the military presented themselves more or less as servants of the King, were complicit in shunting legitimacy away from the putative modern state and its apparatus.



        Since about the 1970s, which saw a brutally-repressed student revolt, the first-ever bottom up, albeit middle to upper-middle class, uprising against the corrupt order, the national political-state-economic system has gradually begun to incorporate more and more of the population, as the pressures of globalization, among others, have forced the political-economy toward normalization as a genuine market capitalism regulated and supported by at least marginally democratic institutions. These systemic changes have generated a small but growing and rising middle class with direct interest in the state, as regulating markets, creating and maintaining trade infrastructure, negotiating international trade agreements and the like. The rural population has been drawn into the political-economic system a bit more slowly, as the money economy has seeped into the rural areas and as cities have come to provide jobs for internal migrants from rural areas, who split
        their years between, say, driving a taxi in Bangkok, and cultivating rice in Roi Et; and as rice has become a major commodity on international markets, farming has begun to become a business, with farmers taking a vital interest in the structures linking the farm through mills and brokers to international commodities exchanges—structures that are closely regulated by the state (and exploited by state officials). Their full awakening came under Prime Minister Thaksin, who focused more on rural development than had any previous government and whose programs aimed at turning farmers into capitalist entrepreneurs.



        Thus the modern state-political-economic system has grown and elaborated itself, incorporating more and more sectors of the Thai population (I don't think that we can yet speak of a Thai people) giving them pragmatic interests in its functioning. Yet this system has never enjoyed legitimation from the people (and we may see a connection here between peoplehood and legitimation). And as the state is more and more understood as a mundane pragmatic instrument, it loses access to the illusive, enchanted loyalty that continues to be accorded the king. Thus the various factions see the state as no more than an instrument for pursuing their individual projects, without the overriding legitimacy that permits of the position of loyal opposition.

        Meanwhile, of course, the old power blocks continue maneuvering behind the scenes, in part attempting to use the popular movements as pawns—but their time is clearly over, the red an yellow bees aren't going to go back into the box. That leaves us needing a functioning state serving the needs of the people, and with the generally recognized legitimacy to balance the conflicting needs of different segments of the population without risking insurgencies from disappointed groups.

        The system has "colonized the lifeworld", or rather incorporated a population whose various lifeworlds have never afforded legitimation to that system.



        If I am right, then it bodes ill for Thailand, as the lack of a generally trusted locus of legitimacy leaves us without a forum of national discourse in which resolutions and compromises, and reconciliation, could be achieved. The question then becomes not how to resolve the current differences between the current factions, but how to create a recognized and trusted forum with the authority, power and legitimacy to implement decisions. Historically, the most common way that this has been achieved seems to have been through violent revolution. I hope that Thailand finds a better way.



        --Stephen

        https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoacademicpapers/












        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • sae57
        Gary, Perhaps I did not express my self very well. Allow me to try and restate my thesis. First, a definition. When I speak of legitimation, I do not mean to
        Message 3 of 7 , Jul 14, 2010
          Gary,
          Perhaps I did not express my self very well. Allow me to try and restate my thesis.

          First, a definition. When I speak of legitimation, I do not mean to ask whether or not the state is legitimate, but whether or not it is granted legitimacy by the people, whether it is /recognized/ as legitimate. Granted that by /some/ definitions, that may amount to the same thing, it is a very different question. If "legitimate" means that the government came to power through a constitutional process than all the governments that have been targeted by uprisings, both yellow and red, have been legitimate, but suffered a legitimation deficit, as have the symbols of authority and enforcement branches.

          Leaving much out for the sake of simplicity: Since 1932, Thailand has had a state system modeling itself after and performing the functions, however imperfectly and feloniously, of a modern state for a nation held together by the enchanted circle of monarchy. That state system has never enjoyed popular legitimation, but was able to function because it was emotionally, and even practically irrelevant to the great majority of the population. What /little/ legitimation it required has been gained by presenting itself as servant/defender etc. of the king and appropriating the symbols of the monarchy. As the state came to function more competently and completely as a modern state—along with general modernization—more and more of the population came to be incorporated into the system. It thus became practically, but not emotionally, relevant and the incorporation has not generated legitimation. Meanwhile, by the very fact of developing as a pragmatic and rational administrative /function/, and of being seen that way by those it incorporates, the state system becomes detached from the enchanted circle of the monarchy and no one can anymore believe its protestations of serving the king or its parading the symbols of monarchy. The Thai state (can I say secular state as opposed to monarchist state?) lacks the legitimation required to mediate between conflicting interests and needs or to inspire a feeling of unity or common cause (oh, how it tries!) among different segments of the population.

          All this is, as Gary seems to hint, a particular instance of what happens in many developing countries—an uneven development, mismatch, of (modernizing) systems and (traditional) cultures. One thing that is interesting, perhaps unique, certainly problematic, about Thailand is the extent to which it has convinced the world, and itself, that it is already a fully modern, functioning capitalist democracy. The inability or unwillingness to confront how very far it has yet to go stands in the way of addressing deep seated tensions. Even now, the tendency is to act as though all problems are solved and we are back to normal. Today I translated an economic/business newsletter that said, "The good news is that the political situation has improved since the end of the Ratchaprasong rally. This should lead to recovery in the economic indicators in coming months." The occupation has been brutally cleared, but the political situation has not "improved", Thailand remains deep in crisis, but pretending.

          Certainly, and of course, as Gary notes, there is much, much else at issue here than legitimation, and because Thailand has always been a closed society—even, especially, to itself—It is difficult or impossible to get a good general picture of it all. But it seems to me that the legitimation question is of some significance, and worth exploring in its own right.

          Gary is concerned that I evidence the lack of legitimation of the Thai state with minority protests. I'm pretty sure that the yellow shirts and red shirts together—including supporters who have not actively protested, make up a majority of the country. Certainly the redshirts alone are a huge segment. Of course, we may want to add in the Malay-Muslim insurgents and sympathizers in the South, the evident lack of authority that the government has over the military and police. But, too, I wanted obvious and well-known examples.

          Gary, I won't quibble with your quibble on civil disobedience—I only wanted to make the point, and acknowledge, that civil disobedience does not necessarily imply withholding legitimation. But what is happening here is far beyond civil disobedience. I will quibble with some of your other statements:

          G: "Thai state intolerance for civil disobedience."
          How many states would stand by and do nothing while an open insurgency occupies and shuts down a major commercial district, barricading themselves and the district with booby-trapped tires and punji stakes? Similarly for the yellow shirt occupation of the statehouse and airport. More accurate would be a "radical inconsistency in dealing with dissent."

          G: "Violent protest may have been forced upon protesters."
          I hope you are not referring to recent events in Thailand. The reds (and in spite of the color, there is nothing leftist about them) boasted openly of having factions in the military that would fight on their side, hinting at provoking civil war, and they were lobbing grenades into military bases and torching banks before the government moved against them at all. I'm not at all justifying the government's handling of the situation, but there is no justification for the red's violence either (though it is evidence of the lack of legitimation accorded the state).

          G: "monarchy that the general public reveres (notwithstanding a vocal minority)"
          What vocal minority???? The reds? While some of the leaders may say privately that they don't revere the monarchy, they vociferously deny such sentiments in public, 1) because of draconian lese majeste laws 2) because 99 percent of the actual redshirts deeply revere the king (I live deep in redshirt country, BTW) and would not follow someone who thought otherwise.

          So what are they fighting for? Not democracy, not a republic—they have no ideology (there are exceptions to everything of course—I'm talking about the Northeastern farmers who make up the mass base of the redshirts). They want to bring back Thaksin, the ultimate patron, in the belief that he will pay off their debts out of his own pocket, literally (the latest outburst occurred when the courts ordered about of half of Thaksin's assets seized as having been ill-got when he was PM—thus torching banks).

          The positive thing about all this is the political awakening of the rural population and their beginning to take an active role. A few people were a bit shocked by the excesses of the reds, even while angered by the government suppression, and are beginning to ask questions in, I think, a new and more independent way. Gary, I very much appreciate your comment on the "polis emerging from strong local engagements" and "coordination of many local discourses". I have to think what that would look like in communities still locked in magical-animist thought patterns, happy with—believing in—the patronage networks that structure society beyond the family, and the monarchy that binds together the nation as a whole.

          By the way, the present ruling party is facing dissolution by the courts for missuse of state-supplied campaign funds. The previous, pro-Thaksin, ruling party was decertified for election fraud.

          Cheers,
          Stephen
          https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoacademicpapers/

          --- In habermas@yahoogroups.com, "Gary E. Davis" <philosophy@...> wrote:
          >
          > Stephen,
          >
          > Thanks for your detailed discussion. As always, your accounting is very useful. Relative to a model of social development suggestive of Habermas' modeling, Thailand seems to be displaying multiple stages of development in interplay and conflict. Implicitly by your account, recent political history is much more than a legitimation issue/crisis. It's a sometimes-tragic drama of hegemony and extended modernization processes. Thailand seems to provide a good example for understanding social developmental events relative to a model of social evolution. You give good evidence for the pertinence of a model of system colonization (which is more-or-less a synchronic notion), but that seems to be part of a diachronic process involving premodern/rural and modern/urban differences, and involving very unstable political learning processes and modernization processes regularly confounded by the corporate-military compact.
          >
          > My sparse awareness of events in Thailand is a matter of Reuters articles and New York Times articles. Your account is consistent with the information I've seen, so I'm reassured that I've not been informed by "propaganda...with little resemblance to what is happening...." You bolster my confidence in reliance on internationally-respected news sources.
          >
          > Some readers may feel a little bogged down by all of your details of protest processes before you provide your fascinating background narrative, so I encourage others to read the second half of your discussion, if they have not. It gives the first part of your discussion valuable context.
          >
          > I don't doubt that the government lacks legitimacy. But you seem to evidence that in terms of minority protests, rather than in terms of general legitimation deficits, since you claim that the state is ideologically justifying itself in terms of the same monarchy that the general public reveres (notwithstanding a vocal minority). It's important to distinguish legitimation problems/deficits from a legitimation crisis.
          >
          > I would quibble with your comments on civil disobedience, but I would agree that Thai state intolerance for civil disobedience is an important symptom of something. You indicate that "The legitimacy of the law is what gives moral force to breaking it." I disagree. It rather seems that the validity of moral principles, thus the force of moral claims, justifies breaking unjust laws through civil disobedience. But your point seems to be an important one: the difference between protesting law with an accepted constitutional order and protesting a "constitutional" order. Violent protest may have been forced upon protesters, but it hasn't been constructive for political change, only for broad-based political education, like guerrilla theater.
          >
          > The king will soon die and with that, I surmise, the monarchy. I hope that broad-based political education continues such that prospects for democratization can be accelerated. The key is *general* education that empowers the people to initiate economic initiatives that can feed into counter-corporatist modernization and financially support local political networking. The outdated notion of violent revolution was motivated by concepts of a competing top-down state that would distribute justice that grows democratic localities, rather than a grassroots-based process whereby the polis emerges from strong local engagements. Coordination of many local discourses may be easier than instituting a singular national discourse (or rather: the national "discourse" is an emergent property of the network of local conversations). Coordinative politics may be easier to engineer than structural-systemic politics that overtly competes with a systemic state.
          >
          > Excuse the hastiness of my comments, if I'm missing something important in what you've recounted. Your background anaysis of Thai politics is fascinating. Thanks again for your discussion.
          >
          > Gary
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > --- On Sun, 7/11/10, sae57 <sae57@...> wrote:
          >
          > From: sae57 <sae57@...>
          > Subject: HAB: Thailand legitimation crisis
          > To: habermas@yahoogroups.com
          > Date: Sunday, July 11, 2010, 6:54 PM
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          > Note: My interest here is in the issue of state legitimation, not specific issues, however, readers should be aware that most of what has been published in the western press is no more than repititions of propaganda generated by the various factions for western consumption, often with little resemblance to what is happening here or what is being said in Thai.
          >
          >
          >
          > The events of the last few years in Thailand may usefully be understood in terms of a crisis of ligitimation, similar to, but not quite the same as, that detailed by Habermas. Habermas imagined a state and associated system(s) that already had legitimation rooted in the lifeworlds of the population, but that the system gained such ascendency that it "colonized" the lifeworld, undermining the socialization processes where by legitimizing belief in the system is instilled. Thus in Habermas' scenario, the system undermines itself.
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          > The lack of legitimation of the Thai state is evident from both the yellowshirt and the redshirt protests/insurgencies since 2006, and their disregard of what in more developed states would be afforded the status of legitimate authority. Protestors, for example in the United States, sometimes engage in civil disobedience, but such disobedience reaffirms the legitimacy of the state in that it understands itself as disobedience in an appeal to change policy. In allowing themselves to be arrested and dragged passively away, protesters at once reaffirm the legitimacy of the laws and of enforcement, while registering the strength of their protest. The legitimacy of the law is what gives moral force to breaking it. In contrast, the 2006 yellowshirt protests in Thailand not only demanded that then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatrastep down, but radically defied the authority of the state itself. They did not allow themselves to be arrested but simply
          > disregarded authority, in the end blockading the statehouse in a protest/insurgency that went on for months, up through the coup d'état that deposed Thaksin. On the other hand, those protests remained strictly non-violent and did not seriously hamper the conduct of business, state or otherwise.
          >
          >
          >
          > Not so the second time around. After the coup d'état, a new constitution was promulgated, and elections held. With Thaksin in self-imposed exile and banned from politics, the party acting as Thaksin's proxy, Puea Thai, won enough votes, just over 36%, to form a coalition government and make a Thaksin surrogate, Samak, Prime Minister. The yellowshirts exploded, and though their violence remained non-lethal, they eventually forced their way through police barricades and occupied the statehouse, holding it for months, this time forcing Parliament and the Prime Minister to relocate. Entrenched and prepared for violent confrontation with security forces (one such confrontation ended in two yellowshirt deaths, with security forces pulling back in the end). In late 2008, having failing to force the government to resign, they occupied Bangkok's two airports, effectively bringing international travel and trade to a halt for several days. The impasse ended when
          > the courts decertified the ruling Puea Thai party for election fraud.
          >
          >
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          > Decertification opened the way for the main opposition, the Democrat Party, that had also received 36% of the votes in the post-coup election, only slightly less than the Puea Thai Party, to form a coalition government, with Abhisit Vejjajiva, as prime minister. Now it was the redshirts turn. In the course of a March-April 2009 protest/insurgency, with the possible collusion of factions in the police and/or military they stormed and forced the cancelation of the 2009 ASEAN summit meeting in Patthaya, deeply embarrassing the Thai state. They did not hesitate at the use of violence, and heads of state had to be evacuated by helicopter from the roof of their hotel. Protesters smashed and nearly killed the inhabitants of an automobile they mistakenly believed to be Abhisit's. The redshirts occupied key parts of Bangkok, blocking main arteries and virtually shutting the city down. When security forces moved to clear these occupations, the redshirts fought
          > back with molotov cocktails, grenades and a few guns. City busses were torched and propane trucks were stationed at strategic spots with the threat of blowing them up. There were two fatalities, when redshirts fired into a group of people barring the redshirts from invading their community.
          >
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          > This year, the uprising was renewed with greater planning and preparation, with redshirts shutting down major parts of the city and refusing to disperse until Abhisit called new elections. They were better armed this time, employing lethal force against security forcesâ€"and in one incident against counter-protesters. In the midst of these events we were treated to the (televised) spectacle of redshirts setting up checkpoints and stopping and searching vehicles coming into the city, including police vans, to prevent reinforcements from arriving. The uprising extended over two and a half months, with the redshirts vowing to fight to the death, before they were cleared by (very slow to act) security forces. There were over 80 fatalities, including security forces; most fatalities were among redshirts and civilians caught in the crossfire.
          >
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          > I will not here discuss the justice of injustice of the demands made by the various factions. Nor do I say anything here about the appropriateness of the methods employed. I simply relate these events to illustrate the lack of legitimation enjoyed by the Thai state and its symbols of authority. All of the governments that were the target of non-negotiable demands to step down, took office in constitutional waysâ€"and were (and are) viewed by their opponents as utterly lacking in legitimacy, suggesting that the constitutional process itself fails to enjoy popular legitimation (not surprising for a country that has had upwards of twenty-five constitutions in the last 80 years).
          >
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          > How did this situation come to pass?
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          > I argue that In Thailand, the modern state together with associated systems, the bureaucracy, the government (whether elected or installed by coup d'état), the judiciary, enforcement branches (the police and military) and the capitalist-corporatist economy, has never enjoyed widespread legitimation, and that what legitimation it may have gained since the 1932 "revolution" has been destroyed by repeated military coups and even more constitutions. But indeed the switch from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy was itself not the result of a popular movement at all, but of a military coup engineered by four Thai intellectuals from Paris and a General, implementing a change that the king himself wanted. Continuing the tradition, there has been a coup d'état every ten years or so since, most occurring with neither popular support nor opposition.
          >
          >
          >
          > The legitimacy of the Thai stateâ€"such as it hasâ€"remained, and remains, focused in the person of the king, with the political state piggy-backing parasitically on that loyalty. Thus, the military tends to justify its frequent take-overs in terms of defending the monarchy and the king, though there is every reason to believe that early on the political-military rulers viewed the king only as a tool to cement power, and that behind-the-scenes, power struggles continue. Thailand through the seventies may be imagined as a monarchy with a predominately local-subsistence and barter economy supplemented by crafts and merchants in the few cities, Bangkok itself, of course, being an international mercantile cosmopolis. The nation has been held together structurally by patronage networks and nationally by emotive illusive/enchanted attachment to the king, with multiple competing unofficial, nearly invisible, but very real power networks, controlled by the king
          > and other factions of the royal family, old families, factions of the military, the police etc. That medieval, perhaps neo-feudal, kingdom was overlaid by a parasitic modern state operating to some extent as a cover for the various factions vying for control of the trade in opium, natural resources, weapons, human trafficking and the rest. There was little protest of such behavior because most people felt that it did not concern themâ€"there was little sense that the state was theirs or that it represented them. At the same time, the state performed, if half-heartedly, the functions of a modern state, building and maintaining infrastructure, facilitating and regulating markets, encouraging industralization and the like. There were genuine efforts at development and democratization, with the military often functioning more as a development workforce than as a security force. But these efforts generated little sense of ownership or identification with
          > the state, with loyalty continuing to flow directly to the king. Of course, the fact that the state and the military presented themselves more or less as servants of the King, were complicit in shunting legitimacy away from the putative modern state and its apparatus.
          >
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          >
          > Since about the 1970s, which saw a brutally-repressed student revolt, the first-ever bottom up, albeit middle to upper-middle class, uprising against the corrupt order, the national political-state-economic system has gradually begun to incorporate more and more of the population, as the pressures of globalization, among others, have forced the political-economy toward normalization as a genuine market capitalism regulated and supported by at least marginally democratic institutions. These systemic changes have generated a small but growing and rising middle class with direct interest in the state, as regulating markets, creating and maintaining trade infrastructure, negotiating international trade agreements and the like. The rural population has been drawn into the political-economic system a bit more slowly, as the money economy has seeped into the rural areas and as cities have come to provide jobs for internal migrants from rural areas, who split
          > their years between, say, driving a taxi in Bangkok, and cultivating rice in Roi Et; and as rice has become a major commodity on international markets, farming has begun to become a business, with farmers taking a vital interest in the structures linking the farm through mills and brokers to international commodities exchangesâ€"structures that are closely regulated by the state (and exploited by state officials). Their full awakening came under Prime Minister Thaksin, who focused more on rural development than had any previous government and whose programs aimed at turning farmers into capitalist entrepreneurs.
          >
          >
          >
          > Thus the modern state-political-economic system has grown and elaborated itself, incorporating more and more sectors of the Thai population (I don't think that we can yet speak of a Thai people) giving them pragmatic interests in its functioning. Yet this system has never enjoyed legitimation from the people (and we may see a connection here between peoplehood and legitimation). And as the state is more and more understood as a mundane pragmatic instrument, it loses access to the illusive, enchanted loyalty that continues to be accorded the king. Thus the various factions see the state as no more than an instrument for pursuing their individual projects, without the overriding legitimacy that permits of the position of loyal opposition.
          >
          > Meanwhile, of course, the old power blocks continue maneuvering behind the scenes, in part attempting to use the popular movements as pawnsâ€"but their time is clearly over, the red an yellow bees aren't going to go back into the box. That leaves us needing a functioning state serving the needs of the people, and with the generally recognized legitimacy to balance the conflicting needs of different segments of the population without risking insurgencies from disappointed groups.
          >
          > The system has "colonized the lifeworld", or rather incorporated a population whose various lifeworlds have never afforded legitimation to that system.
          >
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          > If I am right, then it bodes ill for Thailand, as the lack of a generally trusted locus of legitimacy leaves us without a forum of national discourse in which resolutions and compromises, and reconciliation, could be achieved. The question then becomes not how to resolve the current differences between the current factions, but how to create a recognized and trusted forum with the authority, power and legitimacy to implement decisions. Historically, the most common way that this has been achieved seems to have been through violent revolution. I hope that Thailand finds a better way.
          >
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          > --Stephen
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          > https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoacademicpapers/
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        • Gary E. Davis
          Stephen, I believe you earlier expressed yourself very well, and your additional comments are useful for understanding the Thai reality. Thanks. Ambiguity,
          Message 4 of 7 , Jul 16, 2010
            Stephen,

            I believe you earlier expressed yourself very well, and your additional comments are useful for understanding the Thai reality. Thanks. Ambiguity, due to "leaving much out for the sake of simplicity," causes me questions, but that's a good thing.

            Stephen: First, a definition. When I speak of legitimation, I do not mean to ask whether or not the state is legitimate, but whether or not it is granted legitimacy by the people, whether it is /recognized/ as legitimate.... If "legitimate" means that the government came to power through a constitutional process then all the governments that have been targeted by uprisings...have been legitimate, but suffered a legitimation deficit, as have the symbols of authority and enforcement branches.

            Gary: Is a government the same as a state? An illegitimate state's legalized government-constituting process can result in a state-constitutional government, but an illegitimate state's process doesn't lead to a legitimate government. So, whether or not the state is legitimate seems quite relevant. However, your discussion seems to be about the legitimacy of a sitting government within a constitutional state, not about the legitimacy of the state.

            (I don't see how a state's legitimacy can be separated from people's support for the state-forming process. What could the legitimacy of a state be *apart* from what's granted by the people, such that you make the distinction [wanting to focus on the latter as distinct from the former]?)

            Anyway, you implicitly represent the important distinction between foundation of a state (state legitimacy) and process of government formation (electoral and parliamentary process).

            But through your highlighting of the functional efficacy of the supposedly illegitimate Thai state, you indicate that the Thai state was irrelevant to the majority. In other words, the people found irrelevant a state that functioned effectively. Thus, it's not clear that the state was illegitimate, only that it wasn't legitimated by foundational ratification. It emerged without objection and functioned effectively.

            S: ....What /little/ legitimation it required has been gained by presenting itself as servant/defender etc. of the king and appropriating the symbols of the monarchy.

            G: Apparently, for "... a nation held together by the enchanted circle of monarchy...," that was all that was required. It seems that "emotional relevance" to the people has been a matter of the enchanted circle, only requiring state avowal of reverence for that circle. So, it appears that the increasingly practical relevance of the state had a reservoir of emotional attaching efficacy for effective ideological purposes, accepted by the people, contrary to your claim that the state "became practically, but not emotionally, relevant...."

            So, how is it that increasing efficacy *detaches* the state from its granted attachment to the enchanted circle, since people are being incorporated into the state's efficacy? You don't suggest how that happens, since you only give reason why that would not happen, i.e., the state seems legitimate: state self-rationalization in terms of the circle that the people revere, as the state becomes increasingly practical for the people it incorporates. If "... no one can anymore believe its protestations of serving the king or its parading the symbols of monarchy," then the state must be regarded as impractical or inefficacious, contrary to your narrative about its increasing practicality.

            How does it happen that...

            S: The Thai state...lacks the legitimation required to mediate between conflicting interests and needs...

            G: A government's inability to mediate conflict would be a good reason for the government to lose support, but it doesn't follow from that that the state itself is illegitimate, since another constitutionally-formed government can result from a given government's failure to govern effectively. Likewise, it's no sign of state illegitimacy that a government cannot "inspire a feeling of unity or common cause...." Another government, consitutionally formed, might do better.

            S:...Thailand...has convinced the world, and itself, that it is already a fully modern, functioning capitalist democracy...."

            G: Permit a comical aside: *Travel & Leisure Magazine* has just published its annual rankings of the favorite travel locations of those who read the magazinee and vote in such polls. Number 1: Bangkok.

            I don't doubt that the Thai *government* is illegitimate and that the corporate-military compact is inhibiting democratic development. But you provide no hint that the state is unconstitutionally defined or illegitimate, only that the government is losing support, the electoral process is fraudulent in fact, relative to a constitutional electoral system that is evidently a valid standard for judicial findings of fraudulence; and violent protests are happening. I don't doubt that "Thailand remains deep in crisis, but pretending" otherwise. However, it doesn't seem to be a matter of state legitimacy, but of normal politics infected by corruption.

            S: Gary is concerned that I evidence the lack of legitimation of the Thai state with minority protests....

            G: Parliamentary systems become infected. That doesn't imply that the system is illegitmate, only that a government should yield to the democratic features of its own system, allow fair elections, etc. The difference between the constituted state and an unconstitutional government in that state is important, of course. But illegitimate use of a process doesn't imply illegitimacy of the process.

            You take issue with...

            >>G: "Thai state intolerance for civil disobedience."

            S: How many states would stand by and do nothing....

            G: Tolerance of civil disobedience involves arrest and judicial processing of violators. Constitutional society allows for civil disobedience relative to protested laws. But that's not about violence. I have no sympathy for voluntary violence.

            >>G: "Violent protest may have been forced upon protesters."

            S: I hope you are not referring to recent events in Thailand.

            G: I was expressing solidarity with civil disobedience. I was thinking of peaceful protests that are eventually met with police violence. I was not making a general judgment about the totality of recent events. But I've seen plenty of situations where peaceful protesters felt compelled to respond to violent response from police. I do not support setting up blockades of flaming tires, taunting police, etc.

            >>G: "monarchy that the general public reveres (notwithstanding a vocal minority)"

            S: What vocal minority????

            G: OK, so everyone reveres the monarchy?

            S: While some of the leaders may say privately that they don't revere the monarchy, they vociferously deny such sentiments in public, 1) because of draconian lese majeste laws....

            G: There seems to be a confusion between nation, state, and government. Also, there is the corporate-military compact that controls state processes, causing illegitimate government within a legitimate state. You're objecting to my comment about the nation (my comment based on your own earlier accounts, as well as my own reading) in terms of protest against the government (which is apparently confused about the difference between the state and a government).

            S: So what are they fighting for?

            G: Good question. So, if the protests aren't good evidence for illegitimacy of the state, there seems to be no question of state legitimacy at all, just questions of normal politics or a given government's illegitimacy.

            S: The positive thing about all this is the political awakening of the rural population and their beginning to take an active role.

            G: Indeed. Political education is easily amplified through political theater, given growing access to media.

            Cheers,

            Gary



            --- On Wed, 7/14/10, sae57 <sae57@...> wrote:

            From: sae57 <sae57@...>
            Subject: HAB: Re: Thailand legitimation crisis
            To: habermas@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 6:13 PM







             









            Gary,

            Perhaps I did not express my self very well. Allow me to try and restate my thesis.



            First, a definition. When I speak of legitimation, I do not mean to ask whether or not the state is legitimate, but whether or not it is granted legitimacy by the people, whether it is /recognized/ as legitimate. Granted that by /some/ definitions, that may amount to the same thing, it is a very different question. If "legitimate" means that the government came to power through a constitutional process than all the governments that have been targeted by uprisings, both yellow and red, have been legitimate, but suffered a legitimation deficit, as have the symbols of authority and enforcement branches.



            Leaving much out for the sake of simplicity: Since 1932, Thailand has had a state system modeling itself after and performing the functions, however imperfectly and feloniously, of a modern state for a nation held together by the enchanted circle of monarchy. That state system has never enjoyed popular legitimation, but was able to function because it was emotionally, and even practically irrelevant to the great majority of the population. What /little/ legitimation it required has been gained by presenting itself as servant/defender etc. of the king and appropriating the symbols of the monarchy. As the state came to function more competently and completely as a modern state—along with general modernization—more and more of the population came to be incorporated into the system. It thus became practically, but not emotionally, relevant and the incorporation has not generated legitimation. Meanwhile, by the very fact of developing as a pragmatic and
            rational administrative /function/, and of being seen that way by those it incorporates, the state system becomes detached from the enchanted circle of the monarchy and no one can anymore believe its protestations of serving the king or its parading the symbols of monarchy. The Thai state (can I say secular state as opposed to monarchist state?) lacks the legitimation required to mediate between conflicting interests and needs or to inspire a feeling of unity or common cause (oh, how it tries!) among different segments of the population.



            All this is, as Gary seems to hint, a particular instance of what happens in many developing countries—an uneven development, mismatch, of (modernizing) systems and (traditional) cultures. One thing that is interesting, perhaps unique, certainly problematic, about Thailand is the extent to which it has convinced the world, and itself, that it is already a fully modern, functioning capitalist democracy. The inability or unwillingness to confront how very far it has yet to go stands in the way of addressing deep seated tensions. Even now, the tendency is to act as though all problems are solved and we are back to normal. Today I translated an economic/business newsletter that said, "The good news is that the political situation has improved since the end of the Ratchaprasong rally. This should lead to recovery in the economic indicators in coming months." The occupation has been brutally cleared, but the political situation has not "improved", Thailand
            remains deep in crisis, but pretending.



            Certainly, and of course, as Gary notes, there is much, much else at issue here than legitimation, and because Thailand has always been a closed society—even, especially, to itself—It is difficult or impossible to get a good general picture of it all. But it seems to me that the legitimation question is of some significance, and worth exploring in its own right.



            Gary is concerned that I evidence the lack of legitimation of the Thai state with minority protests. I'm pretty sure that the yellow shirts and red shirts together—including supporters who have not actively protested, make up a majority of the country. Certainly the redshirts alone are a huge segment. Of course, we may want to add in the Malay-Muslim insurgents and sympathizers in the South, the evident lack of authority that the government has over the military and police. But, too, I wanted obvious and well-known examples.



            Gary, I won't quibble with your quibble on civil disobedience—I only wanted to make the point, and acknowledge, that civil disobedience does not necessarily imply withholding legitimation. But what is happening here is far beyond civil disobedience. I will quibble with some of your other statements:



            G: "Thai state intolerance for civil disobedience."

            How many states would stand by and do nothing while an open insurgency occupies and shuts down a major commercial district, barricading themselves and the district with booby-trapped tires and punji stakes? Similarly for the yellow shirt occupation of the statehouse and airport. More accurate would be a "radical inconsistency in dealing with dissent."



            G: "Violent protest may have been forced upon protesters."

            I hope you are not referring to recent events in Thailand. The reds (and in spite of the color, there is nothing leftist about them) boasted openly of having factions in the military that would fight on their side, hinting at provoking civil war, and they were lobbing grenades into military bases and torching banks before the government moved against them at all. I'm not at all justifying the government's handling of the situation, but there is no justification for the red's violence either (though it is evidence of the lack of legitimation accorded the state).



            G: "monarchy that the general public reveres (notwithstanding a vocal minority)"

            What vocal minority???? The reds? While some of the leaders may say privately that they don't revere the monarchy, they vociferously deny such sentiments in public, 1) because of draconian lese majeste laws 2) because 99 percent of the actual redshirts deeply revere the king (I live deep in redshirt country, BTW) and would not follow someone who thought otherwise.



            So what are they fighting for? Not democracy, not a republic—they have no ideology (there are exceptions to everything of course—I'm talking about the Northeastern farmers who make up the mass base of the redshirts). They want to bring back Thaksin, the ultimate patron, in the belief that he will pay off their debts out of his own pocket, literally (the latest outburst occurred when the courts ordered about of half of Thaksin's assets seized as having been ill-got when he was PM—thus torching banks).



            The positive thing about all this is the political awakening of the rural population and their beginning to take an active role. A few people were a bit shocked by the excesses of the reds, even while angered by the government suppression, and are beginning to ask questions in, I think, a new and more independent way. Gary, I very much appreciate your comment on the "polis emerging from strong local engagements" and "coordination of many local discourses". I have to think what that would look like in communities still locked in magical-animist thought patterns, happy with—believing in—the patronage networks that structure society beyond the family, and the monarchy that binds together the nation as a whole.



            By the way, the present ruling party is facing dissolution by the courts for missuse of state-supplied campaign funds. The previous, pro-Thaksin, ruling party was decertified for election fraud.



            Cheers,

            Stephen

            https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoacademicpapers/





             

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • sae57
            Gary, thank you for forcing me to clarify. I address first what seems to me the most glaring hole in my argument: how and why the increasing efficacy of the
            Message 5 of 7 , Jul 18, 2010
              Gary, thank you for forcing me to clarify.

              I address first what seems to me the most glaring hole in my argument: how and why the increasing efficacy of the modern state system should rob it of the option of deriving legitimation by camping onto the enchanted circle of monarchy.

              What I mean by the enchanted circle of monarchy is magical, a mythological realm in which personal and communal identities are ecstatically submerged in the aura (for want of a better word) of the god-king. The ideology (if we can call it that) of Thai monarchy is that a deity condescends to take human birth in order to lead the nation. One uses a special vocabulary when speaking of the king, and the immediate royal family—they to not "walk" or "proceed", the ordinary Thai is /doen/, they /sadet phrarajadamnoen/; the king does not "eat" /kin/, but /sawoey/, he does not have "eyes", Thai /taa/, but /nai/ etc.--and those words apply to, and must be used for, no one else. Should one have occasion to speak to the king one refers to oneself with a first-person pronoun that is used with no one else, /khaaphraphutthajao/--"the slave of the Buddha." But this is the vocabulary of mythology. Feeling oneself within the /kingdom/ of Thailand, one evokes and participates in a mythological reality. The rational instrumentality of modernity, and of the modern state system, is inimical to that enchantment. In the one, things happen because one participates in the magical-mythological order, in the other because one calculates material causes and effects. Think of love versus business. On the one hand love conquers all; on the other, a successful business had better make hard and cold, loveless, decisions.

              It is not that modern practicality is wrong, not at all, but that it fails to partake in the "higher" magic of—love, mythology, ecstasy, kingdom. Thus as state administration becomes more defined by practicality in the modern sense it looses enchantment (but: does the modern state require a different kind of enchantment?)

              Of course, as Thailand modernizes, these illusive forces must give way, but it is striking to me the extent to which they maintain force, even among the educated middle classes, including the young.

              Next: Of course I understand the distinction between government and state, but I do suspect that the failure of any constitutionally seated government in recent years, perhaps ever, to enjoy widespread popular legitimation, suggests a problem at the state level. I tried in my first post to indicate the complexity of the Thai state system (and I do mean /system/), but I'd like particularly to distinguish the monarchial state from the political-modern (can I say "secular"?) state. The many constitutions have defined Thailand as a democracy with the monarch as head of state. Sounds nice, but I don't think anyone has thought through what that means. What I'm claiming is that as the secular state becomes more effective, /as a modern administrative state/, the more it distances itself from the monarchial state, thereby sacrificing legitimation options from that quarter. Thus it incorporates more and more of the populace into its system, insinuating itself into their lives as a necessary set of pragmatic functions but lacking the legitimation to function as a unifying state.

              When I say that the Thai state lacks the legitimation to mediate conflicting interests and needs, I am not invoking that as /evidence/ of a lack of legitimation, but as an unfortunate, tragic in fact (considering the south and the recent bloodletting in Bangkok), /consequence/.

              Bits and pieces:
              I meant to say in my previous post that one factor in the latest uprising was inchoate rage against generations of discrimination and general contempt and abuse from the Bangkok wealthy towards the ethnically and linguistically distinct people of the North and Northeast. Inchoate because inarticulate. Though people tell their horror stories of working as a servant in someone's home and being treated like a dog, or of being barred from good jobs, it has not been formulated into an issue or a cause.

              G: But you provide no hint that the state is unconstitutionally defined or illegitimate, only that the government is losing support.
              S: In a country with a coup d'état every ten years and a new constitution every five or so how can anyone seriously utter the words "(un)constitutionally defined"?

              G: the electoral process is fraudulent in fact, relative to a constitutional electoral system that is evidently a valid standard for judicial findings of fraudulence.
              S: The decisions of the judges have no force, unless you (and the military and the big boss) agree with them. I.e., the judicial system enjoys no more legitimation than the government. But indeed, there is serious reason to question their decisions—e.g. the first post-coup (pro-Thaksin) PM was stripped of office by a court decision that his doing a TV cooking show while PM violated rules against receiving money (he wasn't paid, but was reimbursed for travel expenses to the studio). The Thaksin proxy party was then decertified for vote buying--but vote buying is endemic in Thailand—you /cannot/ run a campaign without paying people to vote. Understand? There has /never/ been a non-fraudulent election, and there is no popular expectation or even understanding of such an animal. (An aside: the protesters in the latest round were paid 500 THB a day to participate—considerably more than average factory wages). The current ruling party is facing decertification for violations so arcane that I don't understand them myself, something about using campaign funds to pay for a party conference—probably because somebody higher up has decided that they can't rule effectively after the protests.

              G: I don't see how a state's legitimacy can be separated from people's support for the state-forming process.
              S: Me either. So then it makes sense to focus on the processes of formation of the people's support or lack thereof. But what /is/ the Thai state-forming process if not the achievement of tenuous balance among warring factions (military vs. police vs. monarchy vs. old families vs. the bureaucracy etc. etc.) whose battles are never public, but carried out in backroom deals, assassinations and the like? But that process has now collapsed and the state system is floundering in disorder. There is no center except the king, but a modern state cannot form and function within that enchantment and the monarch will not or cannot openly assert his authority in the creation of a new order.

              But also, to speak of the people's support for the state-forming process (and I acknowledge that I have inserted the "the") presupposes a /people/, and we then have to address the processes of formation of peoplehood, and the different modes of that. (There's an essay on this on my website—"Mythical Constructions of Society")

              But I want to say this: the idea that the present crisis is only a matter of the legitimacy of this or that government, but not of legitimation of the state itself, is /here/ a most dangerous delusion.

              --Stephen
              https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoacademicpapers/
            • Gary E. Davis
              Stephen, Thanks. I now understand a lot better. It s a clear argument to me now. I m very interested in keeping up with available, reliable news on events in
              Message 6 of 7 , Jul 19, 2010
                Stephen,

                Thanks. I now understand a lot better. It's a clear argument to me now.

                I'm very interested in keeping up with available, reliable news on events in Thailand, which is a fascinating instance of societal evolving.

                You've now made much clearer your claim about the undermining effects of modernization. Details of the enchanted circle are—enchanting.

                Clearly, "[t]he rational instrumentality of modernity, and of the modern state system, is inimical to that enchantment." But I don't yet understand, from the point of view of the traditional power of the monarchy as nation-integrative cultural basis, why a delegitimation is happening.

                As a matter of ideological efficacy, if the political-modern state system claims to serve the monarchial state, and the monarchy approves of the political system, the political system doesn't have to justify itself in terms of the enchantment; it only has to have the blessing of the monarchial state, analogously with no one pretending that the anatomy of a body is explainable in terms of the satisfied mind that the body supports (relative to the classical belief in mind-body difference-in-kind). I don't see how the political system (which has been around for decades) has to "partake in the 'higher' magic," as long as the agent of the higher magic approves of the political system. I don't see how a delegitimation is implied by the *modernity* of the state system---except that the political system is self-contradictory, on its own terms, regardless of its relation to the monarchy.

                So, maybe it goes like the following: Certainly, a delegitimation of the political-modern system can be implied by the corruption of the system, as a matter of internal rationality crisis. If the monarchial state acquiesces to this corruption, then the magic protects the modern state from legitimation deficits. But the failure of the monarchy to credibly approve of the modern system's internal contradictions undermines the ideological efficacy of the monarchy. This would be a matter of modern rationality growing to prevail against the aura of legitimation, such that the internal contradictions of the modern system undermines the monarchial-political-state compact.

                In short, the monarchial state is being put to shame by the shameless "efficacy" of the political state (which is not genuinely modern at all, i.e., irrational). So, a huge rationality vacuum is growing: no prospect for credibly rational political state and no ideological substitute for the monarchial aura. So, in a phrase, the entire land becomes a crucible of social-evolutionary competitions for modeling the transition to a genuinely modern state justifiable in terms of nation-integrative cultural values, all inhibited by the low political-cultural literacy of a large share of the population?

                S: What I'm claiming is that as the secular state becomes more effective, /as a modern administrative state/, the more it distances itself from the monarchial state, thereby sacrificing legitimation options from that quarter.

                G: I can see delegitimation in terms I've sketched above. But you seem to be claiming that a constitutional monarchy is, as such, not viable. However, there may be models of constitutional monarchies that counter that claim, requiring an enlightened monarchy, but not a dissolution of monarchial aura.

                Is it plausible that the monarchy can find new rationalization of itself, such that, internal to the monarchy, a bridge is made between traditional aura and the modern rationality that successful constitutional monarchies have formed? Apparently, the monarchy must gain the internal leadership resourcefulness that the aged king lacks.

                S: There is no center except the king, but a modern state cannot form and function within that enchantment and the monarch will not or cannot openly assert his authority in the creation of a new order.

                G: So, the people should need to provide the monarchy the real power to create a new transitional (genuinely modernizing) order? Anyway, it seems that models of successful constitutional monarchies are venues for problem solving in the transition to a genuinely modern state.

                S: ...we then have to address the processes of formation of peoplehood, and the different modes of that.

                G: Indeed. Thanks again. You've been very educational.

                Gary

                --- On Sun, 7/18/10, sae57 <sae57@...> wrote:

                From: sae57 <sae57@...>
                Subject: HAB: Re: Thailand legitimation crisis
                To: habermas@yahoogroups.com
                Date: Sunday, July 18, 2010, 6:16 PM







                 









                Gary, thank you for forcing me to clarify.



                I address first what seems to me the most glaring hole in my argument: how and why the increasing efficacy of the modern state system should rob it of the option of deriving legitimation by camping onto the enchanted circle of monarchy.



                What I mean by the enchanted circle of monarchy is magical, a mythological realm in which personal and communal identities are ecstatically submerged in the aura (for want of a better word) of the god-king. The ideology (if we can call it that) of Thai monarchy is that a deity condescends to take human birth in order to lead the nation. One uses a special vocabulary when speaking of the king, and the immediate royal family—they to not "walk" or "proceed", the ordinary Thai is /doen/, they /sadet phrarajadamnoen/; the king does not "eat" /kin/, but /sawoey/, he does not have "eyes", Thai /taa/, but /nai/ etc.--and those words apply to, and must be used for, no one else. Should one have occasion to speak to the king one refers to oneself with a first-person pronoun that is used with no one else, /khaaphraphutthajao/--"the slave of the Buddha." But this is the vocabulary of mythology. Feeling oneself within the /kingdom/ of Thailand, one evokes and
                participates in a mythological reality. The rational instrumentality of modernity, and of the modern state system, is inimical to that enchantment. In the one, things happen because one participates in the magical-mythological order, in the other because one calculates material causes and effects. Think of love versus business. On the one hand love conquers all; on the other, a successful business had better make hard and cold, loveless, decisions.



                It is not that modern practicality is wrong, not at all, but that it fails to partake in the "higher" magic of—love, mythology, ecstasy, kingdom. Thus as state administration becomes more defined by practicality in the modern sense it looses enchantment (but: does the modern state require a different kind of enchantment?)



                Of course, as Thailand modernizes, these illusive forces must give way, but it is striking to me the extent to which they maintain force, even among the educated middle classes, including the young.



                Next: Of course I understand the distinction between government and state, but I do suspect that the failure of any constitutionally seated government in recent years, perhaps ever, to enjoy widespread popular legitimation, suggests a problem at the state level. I tried in my first post to indicate the complexity of the Thai state system (and I do mean /system/), but I'd like particularly to distinguish the monarchial state from the political-modern (can I say "secular"?) state. The many constitutions have defined Thailand as a democracy with the monarch as head of state. Sounds nice, but I don't think anyone has thought through what that means. What I'm claiming is that as the secular state becomes more effective, /as a modern administrative state/, the more it distances itself from the monarchial state, thereby sacrificing legitimation options from that quarter. Thus it incorporates more and more of the populace into its system, insinuating itself into
                their lives as a necessary set of pragmatic functions but lacking the legitimation to function as a unifying state.



                When I say that the Thai state lacks the legitimation to mediate conflicting interests and needs, I am not invoking that as /evidence/ of a lack of legitimation, but as an unfortunate, tragic in fact (considering the south and the recent bloodletting in Bangkok), /consequence/.



                Bits and pieces:

                I meant to say in my previous post that one factor in the latest uprising was inchoate rage against generations of discrimination and general contempt and abuse from the Bangkok wealthy towards the ethnically and linguistically distinct people of the North and Northeast. Inchoate because inarticulate. Though people tell their horror stories of working as a servant in someone's home and being treated like a dog, or of being barred from good jobs, it has not been formulated into an issue or a cause.



                G: But you provide no hint that the state is unconstitutionally defined or illegitimate, only that the government is losing support.

                S: In a country with a coup d'état every ten years and a new constitution every five or so how can anyone seriously utter the words "(un)constitutionally defined"?



                G: the electoral process is fraudulent in fact, relative to a constitutional electoral system that is evidently a valid standard for judicial findings of fraudulence.

                S: The decisions of the judges have no force, unless you (and the military and the big boss) agree with them. I.e., the judicial system enjoys no more legitimation than the government. But indeed, there is serious reason to question their decisions—e.g. the first post-coup (pro-Thaksin) PM was stripped of office by a court decision that his doing a TV cooking show while PM violated rules against receiving money (he wasn't paid, but was reimbursed for travel expenses to the studio). The Thaksin proxy party was then decertified for vote buying--but vote buying is endemic in Thailand—you /cannot/ run a campaign without paying people to vote. Understand? There has /never/ been a non-fraudulent election, and there is no popular expectation or even understanding of such an animal. (An aside: the protesters in the latest round were paid 500 THB a day to participate—considerably more than average factory wages). The current ruling party is facing
                decertification for violations so arcane that I don't understand them myself, something about using campaign funds to pay for a party conference—probably because somebody higher up has decided that they can't rule effectively after the protests.



                G: I don't see how a state's legitimacy can be separated from people's support for the state-forming process.

                S: Me either. So then it makes sense to focus on the processes of formation of the people's support or lack thereof. But what /is/ the Thai state-forming process if not the achievement of tenuous balance among warring factions (military vs. police vs. monarchy vs. old families vs. the bureaucracy etc. etc.) whose battles are never public, but carried out in backroom deals, assassinations and the like? But that process has now collapsed and the state system is floundering in disorder. There is no center except the king, but a modern state cannot form and function within that enchantment and the monarch will not or cannot openly assert his authority in the creation of a new order.



                But also, to speak of the people's support for the state-forming process (and I acknowledge that I have inserted the "the") presupposes a /people/, and we then have to address the processes of formation of peoplehood, and the different modes of that. (There's an essay on this on my website—"Mythical Constructions of Society")



                But I want to say this: the idea that the present crisis is only a matter of the legitimacy of this or that government, but not of legitimation of the state itself, is /here/ a most dangerous delusion.



                --Stephen

                https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoacademicpapers/









                _,_.___



























                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • sae57
                Gary, I have little argument with your take. I especially like: G: the entire land becomes a crucible of social-evolutionary competitions for modeling the
                Message 7 of 7 , Jul 19, 2010
                  Gary,
                  I have little argument with your take. I especially like:

                  G: the entire land becomes a crucible of social-evolutionary competitions for modeling the transition to a genuinely modern state justifiable in terms of nation-integrative cultural values, all inhibited by the low political-cultural literacy of a large share of the population.

                  S: I'm certainly not suggesting that constitutional monarchy /per se/ is not viable, in fact, I rather think it's a good idea. The Thai's have attempted to copy the UK model—but it's more a ritualistic imitation of form without the evolutionary history of realizing and (often violently) resolving tensions and contradictions. Anyway, why can't the secular state gain legitimation from the blessing of the monarchy even if not in terms of the circle of enchantment? Simply this: for whatever reason, the monarch, and the royal family in general, has not placed the full force of his charisma behind the secular state, and as far as I can tell, never has. And, as I wrote, "the monarch will not or cannot openly assert his authority in the creation of a new order." Perhaps because of continuing behind-the-scenes conflict between the two (as well as within each)—but it can be dangerous to speculate about such things.

                  Finally, it's not so much a matter of /de/ligitimation, as that the secular state /never/ enjoyed firm widespread popular legitimation. Just enough to function in its marginal way. As the secular state has become more effective and inclusive, performing more of the functions of a true modern state, it has not gained the /added/ legitimation that it needs to perform those functions—and perhaps by its very rationalization has lost some of what it once could gain by playing its roles in the enchanted circle of monarchy.

                  Thanks for the discussion,
                  Stephen


                  --- In habermas@yahoogroups.com, "Gary E. Davis" <philosophy@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Stephen,
                  >
                  > Thanks. I now understand a lot better. It's a clear argument to me now.
                  >
                  > I'm very interested in keeping up with available, reliable news on events in Thailand, which is a fascinating instance of societal evolving.
                  >
                  > You've now made much clearer your claim about the undermining effects of modernization. Details of the enchanted circle areâ€"enchanting.
                  >
                  > Clearly, "[t]he rational instrumentality of modernity, and of the modern state system, is inimical to that enchantment." But I don't yet understand, from the point of view of the traditional power of the monarchy as nation-integrative cultural basis, why a delegitimation is happening.
                  >
                  > As a matter of ideological efficacy, if the political-modern state system claims to serve the monarchial state, and the monarchy approves of the political system, the political system doesn't have to justify itself in terms of the enchantment; it only has to have the blessing of the monarchial state, analogously with no one pretending that the anatomy of a body is explainable in terms of the satisfied mind that the body supports (relative to the classical belief in mind-body difference-in-kind). I don't see how the political system (which has been around for decades) has to "partake in the 'higher' magic," as long as the agent of the higher magic approves of the political system. I don't see how a delegitimation is implied by the *modernity* of the state system---except that the political system is self-contradictory, on its own terms, regardless of its relation to the monarchy.
                  >
                  > So, maybe it goes like the following: Certainly, a delegitimation of the political-modern system can be implied by the corruption of the system, as a matter of internal rationality crisis. If the monarchial state acquiesces to this corruption, then the magic protects the modern state from legitimation deficits. But the failure of the monarchy to credibly approve of the modern system's internal contradictions undermines the ideological efficacy of the monarchy. This would be a matter of modern rationality growing to prevail against the aura of legitimation, such that the internal contradictions of the modern system undermines the monarchial-political-state compact.
                  >
                  > In short, the monarchial state is being put to shame by the shameless "efficacy" of the political state (which is not genuinely modern at all, i.e., irrational). So, a huge rationality vacuum is growing: no prospect for credibly rational political state and no ideological substitute for the monarchial aura. So, in a phrase, the entire land becomes a crucible of social-evolutionary competitions for modeling the transition to a genuinely modern state justifiable in terms of nation-integrative cultural values, all inhibited by the low political-cultural literacy of a large share of the population?
                  >
                  > S: What I'm claiming is that as the secular state becomes more effective, /as a modern administrative state/, the more it distances itself from the monarchial state, thereby sacrificing legitimation options from that quarter.
                  >
                  > G: I can see delegitimation in terms I've sketched above. But you seem to be claiming that a constitutional monarchy is, as such, not viable. However, there may be models of constitutional monarchies that counter that claim, requiring an enlightened monarchy, but not a dissolution of monarchial aura.
                  >
                  > Is it plausible that the monarchy can find new rationalization of itself, such that, internal to the monarchy, a bridge is made between traditional aura and the modern rationality that successful constitutional monarchies have formed? Apparently, the monarchy must gain the internal leadership resourcefulness that the aged king lacks.
                  >
                  > S: There is no center except the king, but a modern state cannot form and function within that enchantment and the monarch will not or cannot openly assert his authority in the creation of a new order.
                  >
                  > G: So, the people should need to provide the monarchy the real power to create a new transitional (genuinely modernizing) order? Anyway, it seems that models of successful constitutional monarchies are venues for problem solving in the transition to a genuinely modern state.
                  >
                  > S: ...we then have to address the processes of formation of peoplehood, and the different modes of that.
                  >
                  > G: Indeed. Thanks again. You've been very educational.
                  >
                  > Gary
                  >
                  > --- On Sun, 7/18/10, sae57 <sae57@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > From: sae57 <sae57@...>
                  > Subject: HAB: Re: Thailand legitimation crisis
                  > To: habermas@yahoogroups.com
                  > Date: Sunday, July 18, 2010, 6:16 PM
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >  
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Gary, thank you for forcing me to clarify.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > I address first what seems to me the most glaring hole in my argument: how and why the increasing efficacy of the modern state system should rob it of the option of deriving legitimation by camping onto the enchanted circle of monarchy.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > What I mean by the enchanted circle of monarchy is magical, a mythological realm in which personal and communal identities are ecstatically submerged in the aura (for want of a better word) of the god-king. The ideology (if we can call it that) of Thai monarchy is that a deity condescends to take human birth in order to lead the nation. One uses a special vocabulary when speaking of the king, and the immediate royal familyâ€"they to not "walk" or "proceed", the ordinary Thai is /doen/, they /sadet phrarajadamnoen/; the king does not "eat" /kin/, but /sawoey/, he does not have "eyes", Thai /taa/, but /nai/ etc.--and those words apply to, and must be used for, no one else. Should one have occasion to speak to the king one refers to oneself with a first-person pronoun that is used with no one else, /khaaphraphutthajao/--"the slave of the Buddha." But this is the vocabulary of mythology. Feeling oneself within the /kingdom/ of Thailand, one evokes and
                  > participates in a mythological reality. The rational instrumentality of modernity, and of the modern state system, is inimical to that enchantment. In the one, things happen because one participates in the magical-mythological order, in the other because one calculates material causes and effects. Think of love versus business. On the one hand love conquers all; on the other, a successful business had better make hard and cold, loveless, decisions.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > It is not that modern practicality is wrong, not at all, but that it fails to partake in the "higher" magic ofâ€"love, mythology, ecstasy, kingdom. Thus as state administration becomes more defined by practicality in the modern sense it looses enchantment (but: does the modern state require a different kind of enchantment?)
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Of course, as Thailand modernizes, these illusive forces must give way, but it is striking to me the extent to which they maintain force, even among the educated middle classes, including the young.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Next: Of course I understand the distinction between government and state, but I do suspect that the failure of any constitutionally seated government in recent years, perhaps ever, to enjoy widespread popular legitimation, suggests a problem at the state level. I tried in my first post to indicate the complexity of the Thai state system (and I do mean /system/), but I'd like particularly to distinguish the monarchial state from the political-modern (can I say "secular"?) state. The many constitutions have defined Thailand as a democracy with the monarch as head of state. Sounds nice, but I don't think anyone has thought through what that means. What I'm claiming is that as the secular state becomes more effective, /as a modern administrative state/, the more it distances itself from the monarchial state, thereby sacrificing legitimation options from that quarter. Thus it incorporates more and more of the populace into its system, insinuating itself into
                  > their lives as a necessary set of pragmatic functions but lacking the legitimation to function as a unifying state.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > When I say that the Thai state lacks the legitimation to mediate conflicting interests and needs, I am not invoking that as /evidence/ of a lack of legitimation, but as an unfortunate, tragic in fact (considering the south and the recent bloodletting in Bangkok), /consequence/.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Bits and pieces:
                  >
                  > I meant to say in my previous post that one factor in the latest uprising was inchoate rage against generations of discrimination and general contempt and abuse from the Bangkok wealthy towards the ethnically and linguistically distinct people of the North and Northeast. Inchoate because inarticulate. Though people tell their horror stories of working as a servant in someone's home and being treated like a dog, or of being barred from good jobs, it has not been formulated into an issue or a cause.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > G: But you provide no hint that the state is unconstitutionally defined or illegitimate, only that the government is losing support.
                  >
                  > S: In a country with a coup d'état every ten years and a new constitution every five or so how can anyone seriously utter the words "(un)constitutionally defined"?
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > G: the electoral process is fraudulent in fact, relative to a constitutional electoral system that is evidently a valid standard for judicial findings of fraudulence.
                  >
                  > S: The decisions of the judges have no force, unless you (and the military and the big boss) agree with them. I.e., the judicial system enjoys no more legitimation than the government. But indeed, there is serious reason to question their decisionsâ€"e.g. the first post-coup (pro-Thaksin) PM was stripped of office by a court decision that his doing a TV cooking show while PM violated rules against receiving money (he wasn't paid, but was reimbursed for travel expenses to the studio). The Thaksin proxy party was then decertified for vote buying--but vote buying is endemic in Thailandâ€"you /cannot/ run a campaign without paying people to vote. Understand? There has /never/ been a non-fraudulent election, and there is no popular expectation or even understanding of such an animal. (An aside: the protesters in the latest round were paid 500 THB a day to participateâ€"considerably more than average factory wages). The current ruling party is facing
                  > decertification for violations so arcane that I don't understand them myself, something about using campaign funds to pay for a party conferenceâ€"probably because somebody higher up has decided that they can't rule effectively after the protests.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > G: I don't see how a state's legitimacy can be separated from people's support for the state-forming process.
                  >
                  > S: Me either. So then it makes sense to focus on the processes of formation of the people's support or lack thereof. But what /is/ the Thai state-forming process if not the achievement of tenuous balance among warring factions (military vs. police vs. monarchy vs. old families vs. the bureaucracy etc. etc.) whose battles are never public, but carried out in backroom deals, assassinations and the like? But that process has now collapsed and the state system is floundering in disorder. There is no center except the king, but a modern state cannot form and function within that enchantment and the monarch will not or cannot openly assert his authority in the creation of a new order.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > But also, to speak of the people's support for the state-forming process (and I acknowledge that I have inserted the "the") presupposes a /people/, and we then have to address the processes of formation of peoplehood, and the different modes of that. (There's an essay on this on my websiteâ€""Mythical Constructions of Society")
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > But I want to say this: the idea that the present crisis is only a matter of the legitimacy of this or that government, but not of legitimation of the state itself, is /here/ a most dangerous delusion.
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > --Stephen
                  >
                  > https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoacademicpapers/
                  >
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