Economic Crises and the Breakdown of Authoritarian Regimes: Indonesia and Malaysia in Comparative Perspective

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Why do some authoritarian regimes topple during financial crises, while others steer through financial crises relatively unscathed? In this book, Thomas B. Pepinsky uses the experiences of Indonesia and Malaysia and the analytical tools of open economy macroeconomics to answer this question. Focusing on the economic interests of authoritarian regimes’ supporters, Pepinsky shows that differences in cross-border asset specificity produce dramatically different outcomes in regimes facing financial crises. When asset specificity divides supporters, as in Indonesia, they desire mutually incompatible adjustment policies, yielding incoherent adjustment policy followed by regime collapse. When coalitions are not divided by asset specificity, as in Malaysia, regimes adopt radical adjustment measures that enable them to survive financial crises. Combining rich qualitative evidence from Southeast Asia with cross-national time-series data and comparative case studies of Latin American autocracies, Pepinsky reveals the power of coalitions and capital mobility to explain how financial crises produce regime change.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This is an outstanding piece of scholarship, with innovative theorizing, a creative use of multiple methods, and a careful and nuanced analysis of various country experiences. Pepinsky’s book tackles the elephant in the room in the crisis transitions literature—why do some crises lead to regime change while most others do not? The recognition that during crises adjustment policy and regime survival are two battles being fought simultaneously is an important insight. Adjustment is inherently political and Pepinsky’s approach marries the economic exigencies of a crisis with the political realities leaders face, and explores when these two things are (or are not) compatible.”
-Allen Hicken, University of Michigan

“What explains the strikingly different policy and political reactions of the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis? Why did Malaysia under Mahathir turn inward economically, maintaining its authoritarian politics, while the Indonesian dictatorship under Suharto failed to formulate a coherent policy response, then collapsed and was soon transformed into a democracy? Pepinsky argues that it was not the usual suspects of left or right, class conflict or macro-institutional patterns, but rather the regime-constructed political coalitions—cohesive in Malaysia, divided in Indonesia on crucial economic policies—that made the difference. His answer is original and persuasive. This is the political economy of development at its most productive, advancing theoretical understanding through sophisticated, fine-grained case studies based on extensive field work in both countries.”
-R. William Liddle, The Ohio State University

“As against all the ad hoc and ad hominem accounts of Suharto and Mahathir, and against the false promise of a narrowly institutionalist analysis, Pepinsky’s close and careful comparative study of economic crises and regime transitions in Southeast Asia demonstrates the abiding importance of understanding the complex interplay of economic interests for explaining policy choices and political outcomes. This kind of emphasis on social forces and the social embeddedness of policies and politics is long overdue and extremely welcome.”
-John T. Sidel, London School of Economics and Political Science

"Recommended. Charts, graphs, an abbreviation list, footnotes, a bibliography, and an index are helpful."
-CHOICE, F. L. Mokhtari, National Defense University

"Which regimes will survive and which ones will buckle under popular discontentment? The prevailing literature does not offer clear answers. It is precisely this question that is at the heart of Thomas Pepinsky's excellent new book. The book is a tour de force, using formal analysis, rigorous quantitative methods, and careful qualitative work, all contained in a highly readable account of the crises facing the two countries and the elite-level maneuvering of top politicians and corporate actors to respond."
Perspectives on Politics, Edmund Malesky, University of California- San Diego

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521744386
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas B. Pepinsky is Assistant Professor of Government and a faculty affiliate of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University. His research appears in World Politics, European Journal of International Relations, Journal of East Asian Studies, Journal of Democracy, Studies in Comparative International Development, and several edited volumes. He received his PhD from Yale University and taught at the University of Colorado–Boulder from 2007 to 2008. He held a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad fellowship in Indonesia and Malaysia from 2004 to 2005.
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Table of Contents

1. Crises, adjustment, and transitions; 2. Coalitional sources of adjustment and regime survival; 3. Authoritarian support coalitions: comparing Indonesia and Malaysia; 4. Adjustment policy in Indonesia, June 1997-May 1998; 5. Adjustment policy in Malaysia, June 1997-December 1999; 6. Authoritarian breakdown in Indonesia; 7. Authoritarian stability in Malaysia; 8. Cross-national perspectives; 9. Conclusions.
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