Pathways That Changed Myanmar

Review of Matthew Mullen’s Pathways That Changed Myanmar (Zed Books, 2017)

Review

Why has the regime of Myanmar (Burma) only recently moved away from military authoritarianism toward a civilian government with democratic processes? Political scholars of Myanmar, and comparative democratization more generally, have sought to answer this question to varying degrees of success. Some works in this vein include Marco Bünte (2013), Nick Cheesman, Nicolas Farrelly, and Trevor Wilson (2014), Lee Jones (2014), Nehginpao Kipgen (2016), and David Steinberg (2014)—with Renaud Egreteau’s (2016) argument of the ‘caretaking’ and ‘pacted’ nature of the military’s ‘top-down’ approach to reform being one of the more notable dissections to date.

Pathways that Changed Myanmar by Matthew Mullen is an interesting addition to this landscape of recent works on Myanmar’s transition. In many ways, this publication is able to explore and provide invaluable data on dimensions of regime transition that these other accounts have generally glossed over in their analyses. In other ways, however, Mullen’s explanation for change seems to tackle more than is necessary and is, in general, not a very focused work—one that is theoretically a mess of ideas without any stable or coherent direction.

Mullen posits the main question of the book in the following fashion… [click here to continue to read full text]

Matthew-Mullen-Photo-B

*Review of Pathways that Changed Myanmar by Matthew Mullen originally published in NewBooks.Asia by T. F. Rhoden; photo image credit of Khin Shwe, chairman of Zaykabar Company, at the top of this re-post goes to Soe Zeya Tun of Reuters, found in the article “In Myanmar on Cusp of Change, Former Junta ‘Crony’ Sees Business As Usual” by Hnin Yadana Zaw and Antoni Slodkowski. Why use this image at the top of this review? Because it explains more about the changing dynamic of Myanmar’s “transition” than any wishful thinking by us milksop academics (in which I include myself).

Those citations from above include the following: Bünte, Marco (2013) “Burma’s transition to quasi-military rule: From rulers to guardians?Armed Forces & Society 40(4): 742–64; Cheesman, Nick, Farrelly, Nicolas, and Wilson, Trevor (eds) (2014) Debating Democratization in Myanmar. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies; Egreteau, Renaud (2016) Caretaking Democratization: The Military and Political Change in Myanmar. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Jones, Lee (2014) “The political economy of Myanmar’s transition.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 44(1): 144–70; Kipgen, Nehginpao (2016) Democratisation of Myanmar. Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge; Steinberg, David I. (ed.) (2014) Myanmar: The Dynamics of an Evolving Polity. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

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