Albert Winsemius and the Transnational Origins of High Modernist Governance in Singapore



This chapter studies Winsemius as a strand of transnational technical expertise which helped forge high modernist governance in Singapore. James Scott’s (Seeing like a state: how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998) concept of high modernism outlines the characteristics of state-planned mega-projects: they typically express a scientific-rationalist view of the world, seek to transform nature and human nature and work through emergency situations. These features are found in Singapore’s one-party state. Since 1959, the PAP has implemented ambitious reforms from above to shift the economy from entrepôt trade to manufacturing and services. These reforms were scientific-rationalist, designed by technocrats in the government and civil service trained in engineering, architecture, urban planning and economics. The reforms were also driven by a deep sense of emergency, attributed to Singapore’s enduring vulnerability as a city-state with no hinterland and a history of ethno-religious strife and political subversion. Singapore’s high modernism is illiberal, technocratic, crisis-driven, perpetually in reform, and transnational.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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