For Whose Benefit? Non-state welfare and distributive politics in Myanmar's political transition

Myanmar floods

For Whose Benefit? Non-state welfare and distributive politics in Myanmar's political transition

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 - 4:00pm
Venue: 
Seminar Room B, Manor Road Building
Speaker(s): 
Gerald McCarthy (ANU)
Convenor: 
Dr M J Walton
Series: 
Burma/Myanmar Events in Oxford

Why are there so few advocates for state-mediated economic redistribution and social welfare in contemporary Myanmar (Burma)? Moving beyond a focus on the regime-led political transition since 2011, this seminar explores how informal institutions generated during following the collapse of socialism in 1988 shape contemporary distributive politics. Based on 16 months of ethnographic, survey and archival fieldwork in provincial Myanmar in 2015 and 2016, it explores how the transition to mediated capitalism in the 1990s and 2000s saw the military regime off-put welfare obligations to emergent entrepreneurs and a non-state charitable sector in a form of rule best conceived as 'authoritarian welfare capitalism'. As Myanmar's civilian state now expands in spheres of welfare provision and development action, the seminar then explores how an ideology of individual and community responsibility popularised through charitable and self-reliance projects during military rule now erodes expectations of, and entitlement from, the democratically-elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The research challenges extant literature on welfare regimes and democratization, demonstrating how informal institutions shape distributive politics in political transition.

Gerard McCarthy is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political & Social Change at The Australian National University. Gerard holds Bachelors in Economic & Social Sciences (Honours I) from the University of Sydney and studied political theory and post-conflict governance at Georgetown University. He has advised and consulted for a range of agencies including International Growth Centre Myanmar, United States Institute of Peace and The Carter Centre and his writing has been published in outlets including Myanmar Times, The Guardian, New Mandala, Lowy Institute for International Affairs, Institute of South East Asian Studies and the Journal of Contemporary Asia. Throughout 2015 he was an Australian Government Endeavour Visiting Scholar at University of Yangon's Department of International Relations.