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"Centrality" and "Balance" in Southeast Asia: Official Ideologies and Regional Crisis

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In this paper, it is argued that the concepts of "centre" and "balance" have a conspicuous presence in the universe of Southeast Asian political thought and that political practice also displays a strain toward the centre. However, the difference between the two concepts is not merely a matter of semantic interest. During what may come to be recalled as the era of ASEAN's prosperity, most countries' political centres flourished; but in the early phase of the region's "monetary crisis" (a shorthand expression for a convergence of destabilizing events), it is already apparent that "balance" is being trumped by attempts to hold the "centre(s)". These attempts are not encouraging. Just when it was becoming possible to imagine a regional political centre, the region has embarked upon a complex, extensive unravelling, a de-centring of unknown proportions.

Affiliations: 1: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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