Archive for the ‘Culture & Society’ Category


As the Philippines ushers in the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao, the country is poised for dramatic changes from the leadership of Benigno Aquino III. Aquino’s tenure was generally stable, and he oversaw the longest sustained period of growth the country had enjoyed in decades. Aquino rhetorically touted the need to retain strong democratic institutions, and he also used typical political methods of trying to achieve policy successes: he consulted with advisors, unveiled policy platforms, and then tried to build support for them in the legislature and with the public. His persona was rarely controversial. Yet even as he tried to combat corruption and oversaw high growth, Aquino achieved only modest success in reducing income inequality, long one of the most significant problems in the country. Despite new cash transfer programs, inequality in the archipelago has grown in the past three years, according to Patricia Abinales of the University of Hawaii. Indeed, she notes, despite consistent growth rates of six percent or above during Aquino’s tenure:

“Job-generation has not caught up. Unemployment continues to hover between 6 and 6.6 per cent. The Philippine poverty rate remains one of the highest in Asia at 16.6 per cent, while income inequality has worsened in the last three years, though the remittances of overseas Filipino workers-which rose to a high of US$28.4 billion in 2014-mitigate this sad portrait.” Read more…

By Joshua Kurlantzick

May 11, 2016; This piece was originally published by Asia Unbound, a blog by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Forbes Asia. Follow the author on Twitter.


Should We Be Turning Japanese?

Written on May 5, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Culture & Society, Political Economy

Walking among the open air cafés in Tokyo during an unseasonably warm November last year—just after the Paris terror attacks—I realized that something was different. Japanese almost never think twice about going into public places. Their streets are not filled with combat troops on wary patrol. Parents don’t fear when their children congregate at a concert or in the park. Japanese are the first to highlight their country’s problems, but when I talk with a group of young men and women at a tiny, crowded bar, their greatest fear for the future is growing old alone, not that they might not grow old at all.

Japan does face a demographic crisis—its population is actually shrinking—but there is another big positive dimension to life in modern Japan. The Japanese are not arguing (all that much, anyway) about social and economic inequality. Nor are the shops dark and the restaurants empty, at least not in Tokyo and other major cities. There is no Japanese Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders drawing on and stoking the anger of a disenfranchised middle class.

Japan has found a separate reality—a separate peace if you will—from the globalization paradigm that has dominated the West since World War II. The country’s experience over the past quarter-century raises the question: How open does a modern nation need to be in order to be “successful”? That should prompt us to ask, in turn, whether we in the West have been overstating the benefits of openness and globalization, and underestimating the virtues of social cohesion and stability.

All this warrants a fresh look at the long-tainted “Japan model.” At least as viewed by the West, Japan has spent the past quarter-century under a cloud. After the Japanese asset price bubble popped in 1989, the once-and-future “Pacific Superpower” (recall all those headlines from the 1980s, declaring things like “Your Next Boss May be Japanese”) no longer interested investors, pundits and the media. “Japanese” traits such as lifetime employment, so recently lauded, were quickly reinterpreted as rigidity, risk averseness, and a general inability to deal with a new era of innovation that valued the individual over the group. In particular, it became an article of faith in the West to decry Japan’s insularity, whether economic or socio-cultural. Japanese society, ethnically monolithic and anti-immigration, was derided as fatally parochial in the new, modern borderless world.

Read more: 


April 12, 2016; Michael Auslin


A banner of Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer is covered with snow in Gnadenwald, Austria, April 27, 2016.

A ripple of concern shivered across Europe this week in establishment circles after a right-wing populist candidate stormed to pole position in the first round of Austria’s presidential election.

“Triumph for the extreme right,” proclaimed Spain’s El Pais newspaper. Britain’s Guardian warned of “turmoil” ahead. Italy’s Corriere della Sera bemoaned a victory for the “anti-immigrant far right” while Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called on traditional political parties to “listen to this wake-up call!”

“In Austria, European governments see a mirror of their own future. Social tensions are rising,” noted another editorial predicting the rise of Europe’s far right.

But this writer wasn’t talking about Sunday’s vote.

Trotskyist journalist Peter Schwarz penned his thoughts 16 years ago, back in February 2000, when the Freedom Party (FPOe) first joined an Austrian government.

At the time, the party’s charismatic and controversial leader, Joerg Haider, had provoked condemnation at home and abroad with his praise for Hitler’s Waffen SS, with his strong anti-immigrant stance and Eurosceptic views. Read more…

Published on April 28 by Katya Adler in


AT no point in recorded history has our world been so demographically lopsided, with old people concentrated in rich countries and the young in not-so-rich countries.

Much has been made of the challenges of aging societies. But it’s the youth bulge that stands to put greater pressure on the global economy, sow political unrest, spur mass migration and have profound consequences for everything from marriage to Internet access to the growth of cities.

The parable of our time might well be: Mind your young, or they will trouble you in your old age.

A fourth of humanity is now young (ages 10 to 24). The vast majority live in the developing world, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

Nowhere can the pressures of the youth bulge be felt as profoundly as in India. Every month, some one million young Indians turn 18 — coming of age, looking for work, registering to vote and making India home to the largest number of young, working-age people anywhere in the world.

Already, the number of Indians between the ages of 15 and 34 — 422 million — is roughly the same as the combined populations of the United States, Canada and Britain.

By and large, today’s global youth are more likely to be in school than their parents were; they are more connected to the world than any generation before them; and they are in turn more ambitious, which also makes them more prone to getting fed up with what their elders have to offer. Many are in no position to land a decent job at home. And millions are moving, from country to city, and to cities in faraway countries, where they are increasingly unwelcome. Read more…

By SOMINI SENGUPTAMARCH 5, 2016; Published in the


We Muslims like to believe that ours is “a religion of peace,” but today Islam looks more like a religion of conflict and bloodshed. From the civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen to internal tensions in Lebanon and Bahrain, to the dangerous rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Middle East is plagued by intra-Muslim strife that seems to go back to the ancient Sunni-Shiite rivalry.

Religion is not actually at the heart of these conflicts — invariably, politics is to blame. But the misuse of Islam and its history makes these political conflicts much worse as parties, governments and militias claim that they are fighting not over power or territory but on behalf of God. And when enemies are viewed as heretics rather than just opponents, peace becomes much harder to achieve.

This conflation of religion and politics poisons Islam itself, too, by overshadowing all the religion’s theological and moral teachings. The Quran’s emphasis on humility and compassion is sidelined by the arrogance and aggressiveness of conflicting groups.

This is not a new problem in Islam. During the seventh-century leadership of the Prophet Muhammad, whose authority was accepted by all believers, Muslims were a united community. But soon after the prophet’s death, a tension arose that escalated to bloodshed. The issue was not how to interpret the Quran or how to understand the prophet’s lessons. It was about political power: Who — as the caliph, or successor to the prophet — had the right to rule?

Published in the by

We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept