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From Relations of Power to Relations of Authority

Epistemic Claims, Practices, and Ideology in the Production of Burma's Political Order

Ingrid Jordt

Keywords: Burma; epistemic practices; political legitimacy

Following the 1962 coup of Burma's first post-Independence and parliamentary democratic government, a succession of military régimes has asserted their legitimacy on diverse grounds. Their ability to keep the upland minorities contained and the country unified, to implement a socialist-style redistributive system, and contemporaneously to act as chief patron to the sangha (order of monks), have each functioned as claims to legitimate rule and to nation-statehood. In 1990, the régime refused to hand over power to Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party, following a landslide election. Aung San Suu Kyi's resistance to the régime, and claims for her own political legitimacy have been asserted, predominantly through an emergent `global society' (universalizing) discourse about human rights, régime performance, and democratic self-determination. In this paper, I examine these separate assertions for legitimacy as distinct but interrelated frameworks for thinking and action, the inconsistencies among which complicate the process of stable state making in Burma.

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