New Politics and Old Managerialism: Welcome to the New Normal

  • Michael D. BarrEmail author


The 2015 General Election in Singapore has confirmed that the ruling elite’s hold on the country after the death of ‘founding father’ Lee Kuan Yew is as strong as it ever was, and that electoral politics is unlikely to produce dramatic political change in the medium term—perhaps not even in the long term. The death of any prospect of democratic renewal does not, however, mean that nothing has changed. I argue that a very important shift has taken place in the basis of the regime’s claims to legitimacy. Singapore has been operating as a technocratic authoritarian regime since the early 1990s, using the rhetoric, rationale and regeneration methods derived from the claims and logic of professionalism and technocratic perfection. This rationale has grown alongside and become intertwined with a growing cult centred on Lee Kuan Yew. I argue that since 2011, the ruling elite has been relying less on technocratic rationales for regime legitimation and regeneration, and more on populism built around the Lee family, resulting in a system of populist managerialism centred on minimal standards of performance and the centrality of the Lee family in the national mythology. The likely implications of this shift include a slide from high standards of governance and the degeneration of the body politic into commonplace managerialism and authoritarianism underpinned by the power of the Lee brand.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Business, Government and Law, Flinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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