Outsourcing the Polity offers a new account of social outsourcing in post-independence Myanmar, demonstrating how the bankrupt post-socialist junta mediated market reform in the 1990s and 2000s and forced private and non-state actors to take the burden for social welfare. Informed by research during Myanmar's decade of partial civilian rule (2011–2021), Gerard McCarthy examines how ideals and practices of non-state welfare can both sustain democratic resistance and undermine social reform over time.
Rather than expand government-led social action funded by direct taxation, grassroots activists and democratic leaders after 2011 variously framed government social action as ineffective, undesirable, and even corrosive of civic norms. They instead encouraged citizens to be "self-reliant" and support each other, including during disasters. Powerful tycoons filled the social gap, using public philanthropy to remake their reputations and to defend their ongoing expropriation of land and state assets from potential democratic redistribution. With non-state social actors more important than ever following Myanmar's return to dictatorship in 2021, Outsourcing the Polity casts new light on the lasting legacies of outsourcing for distributive politics.
Introduction: Social Outsourcing and Inequality
1. Distributive Politics since Colonization Part 1: Autocratic Welfare Capitalism
2. Post-Socialist Welfare Outsourcing
3. Disasters and the Polity Part 2: Democratic Welfare Capitalism
4. Democracy, Freedom, and Morality
5. Philanthropy and Wealth Defense
6. Self-Reliance and Entitlement
Gerard McCarthy is a Research Fellow at Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore and incoming Assistant Professor of Social Policy and Development at International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Follow him on Twitter @gerardtmccarthy.
This book advances the study of how inequality can best be mitigated in deprived, poor communities controlled by autocratic and semi-autocratic states.