The Postdevelopmental State: Dilemmas of Economic Democratisation in Contemporary South Korea
Open lecture with Jamie Doucette, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Manchester
Over the last 25 years, South Korea has witnessed growing inequality through non-standard employment, mushrooming real estate prices, and the growth of its super-conglomerates. That this expansion has taken place amid declining rates of economic growth and turbulent political events marks a departure from Korea’s past recognition as a high growth ‘developmental state.’ This presentation insists that to understand the challenges associated with this transformation what is needed is nothing less than a revision of the very standpoint of developmental state research itself. To do so, it foregrounds the progressive project of ‘economic democratization’ to shift inquiry from elite bureaucracies and rapid GDP growth to the dynamics of historical blocs and the contours of socio-economic inequality. I examine how despite the embrace of this project by successive liberal administrations, and appropriation by moderate conservatives, it has met with frustration. The causes of such, I argue, can be seen through three interlinked phenomena: a narrowing vision of what constitutes economic democracy, the ambiguous space accorded to workers within it, and a problematic ‘politics of personality’ that has been used to pursue legitimacy in lieu of effective alliance-building and substantive policy change.
Bio: Dr. Jamie Doucette is Reader in Human Geography at the University of Manchester. His research interests include the geographical political economy of development and democratization in East Asia, the construction and sharing of urban and economic expertise, and the politics of special economic zones. His articles have appeared in journals such as Progress in Human Geography; Urban Geography; Journal of Asian Studies, and Critical Asian Studies, among others. He is the editor of Developmentalist Cities? Interrogating Urban Developmentalism in East Asia (Brill/Haymarket), and author of a forthcoming monograph entitled The Postdevelopmental State: Pursuing Economic Democracy in South Korea (University of Michigan Press).