Heeeeeeello Friday! Welcome back for my pick of interesting and informative things to read, watch or listen to over the weekend.
Today’s suggested reading is a New Mandala post (also, highly recommend the full 25-page report here) from my ANU colleague Hunter Marston who grapples with the question: in Southeast Asia, authoritarian or illiberal? What’s the difference and why does it matter? Well, it matters if you’re an international partner wanting to work with civil society in Southeast Asia. Understanding the difference helps maximise the kinds of cooperation programs on offer and their effectiveness. A country doesn’t have to be full-on strongman authoritarian to undermine the growth of democracy and exhibit increasingly illiberal values (I wasn’t going to name names but hello, Manila and Jakarta, I’m looking at you). Hunter also emphasises that civil society is not a monolith! Civil society groups come in many different forms and flavours (sweet and sour). This might seem obvious but sometimes we policy analysts and scholars (as well as policymakers and bureaucrats) get lazy and generalise. Not only is Hunter’s work a good reminder to be specific, he even provides a table at the end of his report suggesting how to engage different kinds of civil society actors.
This week’s podcast is a recent interview with Professor Risa Brooks on the erosion of US civil-military relations under the Obama and Trump presidencies, hosted by the Cato Institute’s John Glaser (43mins). She’s also written a heap of stuff on civil-military relations under Trump if you’re keen to pull on that thread, including this 30-page article published this year. In that paper, Risa compares the last administration’s impact on the military’s place in society and politics to its predecessors. Her analysis is hard on the former president but I thought her discussion of contemporary civil-military ties provides useful food for thought.
Lastly, are we witnessing the end of the Yakuza in Japan? Having rewatched Michael Mann’s 1995 masterpiece Heat last Friday, I spent the week pondering the simultaneously poetic and tragic relationship between antagonist and protagonist in law enforcement and criminality (recall that Pacino–De Niro coffee shop scene). As timing would have it, I was sent this brief yet informative France24 segment about how the tide turned against Japan’s criminal underworld, crippling a once 200,000-strong organisation to around a tenth of its men. It’s worth watching to see how these gangsters portray themselves and how exactly Japan’s police and legal system successfully brought this centuries-old system to its knees—for now (5mins).
That’s all for today, folks! Enjoy your Friday Burgers and catch you next week. Image courtesy of Flickr user Jeff Laitila —NS