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The Politics of the Environment in Singapore? Lessons from a "Strange" Case

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Southeast Asia has come under scholarly focus for the contradictions of rapid development and environmental protection, and the ensuing politics. Most give Singapore a miss because it is a "strange" case that does not fit into a region where affected local peoples, "middle class" activists and developmental states struggle over the exploitation of natural resources and environmental degradation. This paper claims that analysis of the "quiet" politics of environment in Singapore is instructive, and can correct the materialist bias evident in the understanding of Southeast Asian political economy/ecology. It argues that urban "middle class" environmental activism is a manifestation of resistance to enlarging systems of governance allied with capital. Environmentalism can be seen as a response against the encroachment of the system into the intimate living places of the lifeworld. This response is embedded within an international public sphere that enables environmental politics. These activists derive their motivation and political strength from public moral discursive actions. Environmentalism is a contemporary reflection of a fundamental sociological theme, the discontents' moral struggle for the good society, not necessarily reflecting parochial class interests.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology National University of Singapore


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