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The prose of passive revolution: Mobile experts, economic planning, and the developmental state in Singapore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Chris Meulbroek, Majed Saeed Akhter

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1242-1263
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number6
Early online date10 Apr 2019
Accepted/In press19 Mar 2019
E-pub ahead of print10 Apr 2019
Published1 Sep 2019


King's Authors


During the Cold War, a barrage of globally mobile development professionals proliferated throughout the decolonizing Third World to both assist in economic development and to constrain the geopolitical spread of communist-sympathetic regimes. This paper considers a document authored by one such professional, Albert Winsemius, and draws on Antonio Gramsci’s concept of passive revolution to theorize the process of state formation in Singapore. By examining Winsemius’ role in Singapore’s development planning, we demonstrate how globally sourced, ideological anti-communism and transnational economic expertise were inscribed into the institutional structure of the Singaporean state under Lee Kuan Yew and the People’s Action Party. Basing our analysis in a close reading of a key economic planning document, we argue that Winsemius and the Industrial Survey Mission demonstrate a political understanding of state formation rooted in the need to suppress labour strife and maintain political stability. This paper contributes to a more spatially nuanced understanding of East Asian industrialization and state transformation through a theorization of the influence of transnational expertise on an archetypal ‘developmental state’.

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