Consolidating authoritarian rule: Calibrated coercion in Singapore

Cherian GEORGE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite the persistence of authoritarian forms of rule, studies of state domination have seen little need to analyse the use of force against citizens. This essay argues that, while state violence is elemental, it is not straightforward. States have a range of repressive tools at their disposal, which they need to deploy rationally and with finesse if they are to consolidate their authoritarian systems. As a step towards problematizing state violence, this essay suggests the concept of calibrated coercion, which represses challengers with minimum political cost. Calibrated coercion is illustrated through an in-depth case study of press controls in Singapore, where one of the world's most successful hegemonic parties has governed continuously for four decades. Behind the stability of the press system, the Singapore government has made fundamental changes to its modes of control, with less frequent recourse to blunter instruments such as newspaper closures or arbitrary arrest. Instead, less visible instruments are increasingly used, with the media's commercial foundations turned against themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-145
Number of pages19
JournalPacific Review
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Authoritarian systems
  • Democracy
  • Politics
  • Press
  • Singapore

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