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Open Access The plural economy and its legacy in Asia

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The plural economy and its legacy in Asia

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Chapter Summary

J. S. Furnivall argued that by the early twentieth century, European colonialism had created societies in much of Southeast Asia where ethnicity and economic function were tightly linked and where the different races only came together in the marketplace and were never able to integrate in any other human activity. This chapter argues that this rather stark view of Southeast Asian colonies should be modified in some respects. Although Furnivall put forward his views in the context of Burma and the Netherlands Indies, by the 1930s the racial division of labour was most pronounced in British Malaya, where migrant Chinese and Indians accounted for over half of the total population. Probably the most peaceful and least discriminatory resolution of the problem of the plural society can be found in the Philippines and Thailand in the decades after 1960.

Keywords: British Malaya; Burma; Chinese migrants; European colonialism; J. S. Furnivall; Philippines; plural society; Thailand



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