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The Present Fortune of Tradition-Bound Authoritarianism in Myanmar

Bruce Matthews
Pacific Affairs
Vol. 71, No. 1 (Spring, 1998), pp. 7-23
DOI: 10.2307/2760820
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2760820
Page Count: 17
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The Present Fortune of Tradition-Bound Authoritarianism in Myanmar
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Abstract

Reconciliation between Myanmar's authoritarian SPDC government and the exponents of democracy remains elusive. Despite tensions attending the political struggle, the military regime continues to grow in confidence, in several ways. These include a sense of rightness or privilege based on certain perceived cultural and historical determinants that, in their opinion link political rule with despotism. Other features discussed are the tight infrastructure of the SPDC cabinet and the loyalty of a vast military force. But there are as well striking features that point to SPDC's underlying lack of confidence, and which reveal a polity in a state of moral emptiness. These include reliance on arcane superstitions, the nascent moral authority of the Buddhist monastic order and, above all, the living presence of Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite outward appearances of political stagnation and civil resignation, changing economic and social conditions in Myanmar tempt one to conclude that this epoch of despotism is drawing slowly to a close.

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