top of page

Comparative Historical Sociology

in Southeast Asia

I was first introduced to the tradition of comparative historical sociology when I read Barrington Moore, Jr.'s classic Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966) as an undergraduate at Yale, and as a graduate student at Cornell I was shown the illuminative powers of this approach in a course on the history of Southeast Asia taught by Takashi Shiraishi. My understanding of Southeast Asia, and my approach to the study of the region, has been profoundly influenced by this kind of tradition, as can be seen in some of my writings and also in the lectures on my postgraduate course 'Globalization and Democratization in Southeast

Banjarmasin, Indonesia (Credit: Mohammad Haris)

 Asia' (GV4C9). Viewed from this perspective, the varying parameters and patterns of politics in Southeast Asia can be illuminated and understood through a comparative analysis of the formative impact of successive waves of what we today call 'globalization', first in what is often glossed as the Early Modern Era (c. 1350-1850) and then in what Eric Hobsbawm termed the Age of Empire (c. 1875-1914), with state formation, class formation, identity formation, and religious formation producing enduring legacies whose imprint is still evident in the countries of the region today.

Here are some examples of my published work in this tradition:


“Rethinking Sovereignty and Stateness in Southeast Asia: A Comparative Historical Perspective,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Volume 40, Number 3 (December 2020). 


“Primitive Accumulation and ‘Progress’ in Southeast Asia: The Diverse Legacies of a Common(s) Tragedy,” TRaNS: Trans-Regional and National Studies of Southeast Asia, Volume 3, Number 1 (January 2015), pp. 5-23. 


“Nationalism in Post-Independent Southeast Asia: A Comparative Analysis,” in John Breuilly (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 472-494.  


“The Fate of Nationalism in the New States: Southeast Asia in Comparative Historical Perspective,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Volume 54, Number 1 (January 2012), pp. 114-144. 


“Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy Revisited: Colonial State and Chinese Immigrant in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia,” Comparative Politics, Volume 40, Number 3 (January 2008), pp. 127-147.  

bottom of page