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Kenneth Christie

The emergence of an ‘Asian’ form of democracy in distinction to a liberal Western one has called into question longstanding assumptions that economic development leads to democracy, which was a mainstay of modernisation theory from the early 1960s to the present day (i.e. Lipset 1959; Diamond 1992).2 This article will examine some of the assumptions behind Asian democracy (sometimes called ‘illiberal democracy’), its relationship with economic development and the difficulties and tensions between these propositions in Southeast Asia in relation to modernisation and political change.