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Ortmann, Stephan. “Liberal Vestiges in an Illiberal Regime: The Case of Singapore.” Society (2022): 1-12.


Singapore has been called a state that has “disavowed” liberalism. However, a number of liberals have emerged who see political freedoms as essential to achieve accountable government that acts in the general interest. They draw on an institutional foundation that has been deeply shaped by liberalism while the rejection of liberalism is not based on an ideological alternative. Instead, it is portrayed as a necessity because citizens are told they need to sacrifice freedoms in exchange for economic growth and political stability due to the many vulnerabilities of a small, multi-ethnic country. Over the years, as the city-state became more developed and more secure, the government has liberalized some aspects, although often followed by greater restrictions. Two types of liberals have emerged, one seeking to change the system from the outside, the other advocating for political reform from within. However, both have been unsuccessful as the ruling party has sidelined liberal voices within the party and increasingly insists on the need for illiberal authoritarian rule.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.