Decadent Technocracy: Is The Singapore Story Fundamentally Tragic?

Kenneth Paul Tan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper


In 2008, Kenneth Paul Tan anticipated the decay of meritocracy in Singapore’s technocratic political and public sector leadership, often credited then as a key factor in Singapore’s success story. What has emerged since is a crude form of elitism, lacking creativity, moral depth, and leadership to manage the contradictory dynamics of neoliberal globalization. In 2012, he anticipated the decay of more thoughtful and courageous strands of pragmatism in Singapore’s policymaking into a crude, unimaginative, and sometimes brutal form of market fundamentalism that — together with the rise of an entitled, insecure, and prickly ruling elite — would eventually create the conditions for widespread scepticism, popular resentment, and populist energies directed against the establishment and even authority in general. In a series of public lectures in 2019, he asked, “Are Singapore’s finest years coming to an end?” In this lecture for AcademiaSG, Tan revisits the underlying political and cultural criticisms that have motivated his writings over the decades, in order to explore the validity and desirability of explaining today’s (and possibly tomorrow’s) Singapore through the lens of “tragedy”. He also reflects on why critics like himself are often drawn to catastrophic thinking, what value that brings to the production of knowledge, and what price is paid for it. His lecture is moderated by Donald Low (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2023
EventAcademiaSG Public Lecture 2023 -
Duration: 17 Sept 2023 → …


LectureAcademiaSG Public Lecture 2023
Period17/09/23 → …
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