Catharsis: A Second Chance for Democracy in Malaysia

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Jamie S. Davidson, Bijdragen Tot De Taal-, Land-En Volkenkunde, 2019.

"Ooi established himself as a foremost observer of Malaysian politics. In addition to a number of political biographies that he has penned, Ooi informs us in his all-too-brief introduction that Catharsis represents his seventh compilation of short essays. Given the magnitude of events that it covers - in essence, the lead-up to the Pakatan Harapan's monumental 2018 victory and its immediate aftermath - Catharsis could become Ooi's most consequential. At minimum, it cements Ooi's reputation as a leading public intellectual. 
     The weight of the book, however, lies with Ooi's recounting the rise of the opposition that finally toppled the UMNO-led behemoth in 2018. Although the original publication dates of the essays contained in this volume begin in 2013, Ooi continuously harkens to the anti-government, street protests of September 1998 amidst the Asian Financial Crisis as the critical moment that made a multi-ethnic oppositional force viable. While these Reformasi (Reform) mobilizations failed to accomplish what their counterparts had achieved in Jakarta - that is, regime change - they gave rise to a new generation of politically aware citizens and activists, imbued with a sense of duty, urgency, and purpose. 
     But Ooi also speculates - and here I think he is spot on - that in hindsight, winning the 2018 election and the consequent peaceful transfer of power will prove to have been the easy part. 
     We anticipate the publication of Ooi's subsequent compilation of essays in a few years time to tell us whether the Pakatan Harapan government delivered on its promises."

About the Publication

Malaysia pulled itself back from the brink on 9 May 2018. That day the majority of its voting population decided to topple the Barisan Nasional government that had been in power for over 60 years and that had come to be seen as corrupt beyond redemption, and incompetent to boot.
     Lined up against the unpopular administration of Najib Razak was a coalition led by former strongman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who at the age of 92 had decided to return to Malaysian politics to stop the rot which many believed had begun during his earlier period in power, in 1981–2003. As the oldest prime minister in world history, he is now setting about creating structure that he believes will lead to a Malaysia that will achieve the Vision 2020 that he first propounded in 1991. This vision dovetails with the ideals of the highly influential Reformasi Movement which was ignited by the sacking of his deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, in 1998.
     This compilation of insightful analyses is Ooi Kee Beng’s seventh, and discusses key events from the last five years leading up to 9 May 2018 and beyond. These seven books together cover the strange period we may come to know as the Inter-Mahathir Era, and the present volume discusses some of the challenges facing the new government, and the Malaysian population in general, now that the Barisan Nasional has imploded.

Co-publication: Penang Institute / ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute / Strategic Information and Research Development Centre

Available for distribution by ISEAS worldwide except Malaysia. For buyers in Malaysia, please visit SIRD’s distributor in Malaysia, GB Gerakbudaya.


PDF e-book files for this publication are available as detailed below.

Catharsis: A Second Chance for Democracy in Malaysia [Whole Publication, ISBN: 978-981-4818-92-6], by Ooi Kee Beng, author 7.90 USD
16.00 USD
Preliminary pages Download
1. Introduction – Malaysia's Future is Redeemed Download
2. After All These Years, Malaysia is Still Held Hostage
3. Beyond the Nationalism Trap
4. Federating Malaysia — A Continuous and Troubled Process
5. Funeral for a True Son of Penang
6. Let's Work Out What Malaysia is Good For
7. The Unity Fetish
8. When the National Narrative Loses the Script
9. Let's Be Cosmopolitan and Leave Multi-ethnicity Behind
10. Noses Don't Grow Back
11. Mahathir's Bersatu is Best Understood as an NGO
12. Racialising the Un-racialisable: What is the Red Shirt Rally All About?
13. One Country's Merdeka is Another's Damage Control
14. Malaysia — Where Politics Must Be Ethically Inclusive and Exclusive at the Same Time
15. Is Malaysia at a Crossroads or in a Quagmire?
16. Unity without Solidarity Sows Disunity
17. UMNO and Looking Back at History
18. Sarawak Forces Federal Opposition to Do Deep Soul-searching. But Can It?
19. By-elections Reveal New Malay Politics
20. Inteview with Mahathir Mohamad: 'People Must Be Able to Hold Their Heads Up'
21. Malaysia Has to Start Re-examining Its Histories
22. Waves from US Probe into 1MDB May Turn into Tsunami
23. Seeking a New Formula to Unite Malaysia's Diversity
24. Time for Anwar to Accept Mahathir's Olive Branch?
25. Najib, Mahathir and the Timing of Malaysia's Polls
26. Excessive Governance is Not Good Governance
27. Why Malaysia's Opposition Will Take to the Streets Again
28. Merdeka is About The Individual, Too
29. A Battle between Malay Leaders over Malaysia's Future
30. The Primacy of Political Economy in Asia
31. One Thing is Certain — There Will Be More Amendments to the Constitution
32. The More Things Change, the More Things May Actually Change
33. Did Merdeka Liberate or Create Malaya?
34. Interview with Nurul Izzah Anwar: Rebuilding a Nation Long Divided
35. The Diminishing of Humans through Identity Politics
36. The Art of Dismantling Cultural Pluralism
37. No Need to Let Bigots Dictate Policy
38. What the Penang Floods Say about Malaysian Politics (and It's Not Just about Climate Change)
39. This is the Moment of Truth for Malaysia's Race-based Politics
40. We Are Equal Only through Our Vote
41. Why the Opposition has a Shot at Toppling the Barisan Nasional with Mahathir at the Helm
42. Spiralling back towards Reformasi
43. Individual Freedom is a Matter of National Survival
44. Why Meet the Twenty-first Centruy with Twentieth Century Mindsets?
45. A Final Quarel between a Repentant Grandfather and Old-fashioned Self-absorbed Parents
46. Outraged Enough to Go Vote or Cynical Enough to Stay Home?
47. The Bewildering Game of Malaysian Politics, the Rot within the Barisan Nasional
48. A Revolution in Malaysia? Not So Fast...
49. Mahathri: Renaissance Man
50. Malaysia's Reformasi Movement Lives Up To Its Name
51. In Lieu of Race and Religion
52. It All Seems So Simple Now...
53. Catharsis — The Rebirth of Malaysia Finally Begins
54. A Malaysian Spring for Intelligentisia?
55. The Layers of Historical Signifance of GE14
About the Author Download

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