Changing Ethnic Boundary, Social Differentiation and the Malaysian Nation: Roots of Malaysian Stability is a repository of the author on his journey to understand the ever-changing society in Malaysia, by debunking colonial knowledge and acquiring local knowledge, with holistic research data within a scientific framework. Studies on ethnic relations in Malaysia from the 1990s onward show that good ethnic relations prevail in Malaysia as indicated by the thinning of ethnic boundaries, sharing of universalistic norms, similarities of public opinions and their relationship is horizontal rather than vertical as cross-cutting social ties and group relations could be observed are the main patterns taking place in the society, irrespective of ethnic, religious and regional origins.
Studying the changing Malaysian society since 1990 indicates that the social groups in the urban, middle classes and the generation Y have greater concern for social cohesion, rules of law and democratic practise that demand the government of the day to uphold good governance and just and inclusive development in managing the country. They reject corruption, kleptocracy, abuse of power, bad governance, and development that benefit the rich and the power. So too are studies on the national ethos of Bangsa Malaysia do show that despite the ethnic, religious and regional diversities that characterised the Malaysian population, this national ethos was found to be developed, irrespective of ethnic, religious and regional origins. Though in-depth analyses of the data do show relative variations between urban-rural and among segments of the Chinese and non-Muslim Bumiputera groups, there are gaps between them with the other ethnic groups.
Thus, the portraits of good ethnic relations, of social bonding and coexistence, sharing and celebration of the different cultural and religious festivals and the acceptance of diversity as a national asset are the foundational elements that foster social cohesion, national unity and national pride of the nation. However, the research findings do show that there are times that Malaysian behavioural preferences opted for ethnic concerns relative to the gains of universalistic preference. This ethnic preference observed in the same data studied does not reflect their ethnic sentiment as primordial but more a reaction to exclusion and injustices taking place in the larger society. Their ethnic behaviour is a reaction to bad governance at the local level, such as the intervention by the Local Authority and the Police over the transgression of law as well as the limited opportunity and access to institutional supports such as education, job, health and housing in their vicinity.
However, studying the trends of the thickening and spiralling downward of the ethnic preference in the Index of the Social Alignment shows clearly that two periods influence the trends, viz., economic crisis and election. The trend of increasing ethnic preferences during economic crises does happen, especially, Malaysians especially feel that the economic policy and programme excluded them along ethnic, religious, and regional lines.
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