Malay Ideas on Development: From Feudal Lord to Capitalist

SHAHARUDDIN MAARUF is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Sociocultural in Universiti Malaya. He is the author of Malay Ideas on Development: From Feudal Lord to Capitalist and Concept of a Hero in Malay Society.

SIRD (Second impression, 2014)
190 pages including Bibliography

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Malay Ideas on Development: From Feudal Lord to Capitalist, originally published in 1988, deserves recognition as a classic. It is a pioneering study in the history of ideas in the Malay context—an examination of Malay thinking relating to ‘development’, reaching from the pre-colonial era to the modern post-independence state.

The author was well-equipped for such a project. Familiar with the writings of de Tocqueville, Burckhardt, Weber, Huizinga, Mannheim, and others, the author himself was also a student of Syed Hussein Alatas. A local scholar with the highest international reputation, Alatas influenced a generation of fine social scientists including Chandra Muzaffar and Sharon Siddique as well as Shaharuddin.

Despite its modest title, Malay Ideas on Development: Prom Feudal Lord to Capitalist is ambitious in range, beginning with an analysis of writings from the sultanates (or kerajaan) which were eventually brought under British and Dutch control in the 19th century, and ending with the political thoughts of the philosopher-prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. It has been surprisingly rare in Malay studies to encounter analyses that link the early Peninsular polities and the modern state in this way and almost as rare to find scholars who take seriously the formulation and content of political ideas in the Malay community.

The author focusses on ‘styles of thinking’ and ‘representative writers’, and highlights the ‘interplay between Malay feudalism, capitalism, Islam, and nationalism’. As sources for pre-colonial thought, he saw the value of royal court writings—the Sejarah Melayu and others when many scholars simply continued to argue about their historical accuracy, and he analyses these works with sensitivity and insight. The ‘whole social atmosphere’ that they convey, in the author’s view, is ‘saturated through and through with the idea of inequality’ and there was ‘great pride in one’s power and rank.’ In the 19th century, Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir was an early radical in condemning this ‘Malay feudalism’ arguing that the root cause of Malay economic backwardness was the ‘severance of the link between reward and effort by the oppressive ruling elite’.

This elite failed to ‘live up to the ideals of good leadership as enjoined by their religion of Islam’. As the author explains, the Malay feudal leadership, unlike the contemporary Japanese elite did not embark on ‘reforms toward the rationalization of society’.

Weight 0.333 kg
Dimensions 22.8 × 15.2 × 1 cm
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