In This Review

The Nature of Asian Politics
The Nature of Asian Politics
By Bruce Gilley
Cambridge University Press, 2014, 272 pp

In this ambitious book, Gilley offers a novel way to understand the politics of East and Southeast Asia. He proposes that states in the region succeed or fail according to how closely they hew to what he dubs “the Asian Governance Model,” in which a widely acknowledged political authority “allocates political values in a non-patrimonial manner that advances broadly shared development, internal and external security and social opportunity through a form of governance that is characterized by the traits of rationality, accountability and propriety.” He alternates between grand theory and fine-grained analysis. The book is engaging and will surely stimulate classroom debates. But Gilley weakens his own argument by repeatedly insinuating that at heart, Asians simply prefer despots. Gilley’s model downplays the intense ambivalence many in the region feel toward state authority, and he sometimes misses the fact that in Asia, as the saying goes, the emperor’s writ often stops at the village gate.