- Furnivall argues that free market capitalism (Liberalism) produced and intensified the plural society.
- The plural society is understood as a multiethnic society, where economic forces atomize and determine social relations. (example of Indians as governmental roles, Chinese in trade…) In other words British Burma was a plural society that witnessed the disintegration of social will and concepts of organic communities and a demise of social welfare for native inhabitants (Burmese).
- Furnivall proposes for the social, economic, and political reintegration of Burma towards gradual autonomy and self-rule. (Autonomy leads to social welfare leads to development…autonomy in carefully monitored stages).
- Contribution: The evolution, unevenness, and changes within colonial policy and practice over time and space. transformations in colonial policy (519)
- Furnivall argues for gradual, monitored Burmese autonomy, but is not clear and realistic on the details the reintegration of a nation for a plural, divided society. Who are ‘the people’ who will be socially, politically, and economically reintegrated into a new cohesive society?
- Furnivall does not address the diverse and powerful nationalist movements and their visions for an independent, anti-British Burmese nation.
- Colonial Burma was not governed by liberalism, but by local indigenous forms of administration and models from other British colonies. (Engehart)
- False dichotomy of liberalism/change and tradition/static (Englehart)
- Liberalism was not a coherent political force and ideology (until 1840s in England)
- The pre-colonial Burmese economy was not simply localized and based on barter. Rather more evidence has shown that the thet-kayit (moneylending) during the late Kon-baung is evidence of a monetized commercial economy. Thus, Furnivall exaggerates the dramatic changes of the ‘plural society’ wrought by free trade,domestic markets, and the global economy.
- Furnivall oversimplifies and romanticizes the indirect colonial and dual systems of rule in the Dutch East Indies.
Facilitation Key Points Handout for Discussion
- Pre-colonial society as pre-capitalist, organic, local, popular, socially cohesive, pre-state and unified by cultural, social, political values
- “Under native rule the people lived within a little world, but their cultural horizon was co-extensive with its boundaries; under western rule their horizon is contracted to their life as cultivators and their social life is less comprehensive than before.” 307
- “The general effect was that the popular self-government of Burmese times was replaced by a foreign legal system unable to control the anti-social forces which it liberated, and favouring the decay rather than the growth of local autonomy.” (76)
- Direct rule:
- Indirect rule:
- “In Java the Dutch have tried to conserve both the form and content of traditional self-government while adapting it to the requirements of the modern world; in Burma a contrary policy has been pursued.” 266
- Fabianism: paternalistic and humanitarian vision of colonialism in which colonial masters would strengthen and protect colonies from predatory forces of free trade (colony ‘autonomous’ partner); overall Fabianism suspicious of radical social change and revolution and emphasized gradual progressive change where colonial administrators could be “social engineers” to manage colonies
- Two grades of officials: superior officials belonging to central administrative system appointed by the Crown; subordinate local officials whom the most important was Thugyi (hereditary chieftain of a small district)
- Non-regulation province: Burma under executive authority of Governor-General rather than British Parliament or India Office; thus Burma fell under the Bengal system and was governed using Munro’s ryotwari system and ‘military civilian’ officers especially in the early years
- Laissez faire: guidance and practical management to private bodies and individuals
- Liberalism/Liberal doctrines of economic freedom:
- Individualism: “disregard of common welfare and a reluctance or inability to combine for common ends.” 109
- Land tenure: Indonesian and Burmese systems similar where individual possession never absolute against the community, cultivated sites taken up temporarily
- British rule where squatter can take up land by paying revenue, after 12 years can become ‘private property’ even without cultivating it
- Tenancy problem and land alienation
INTERCONNECTED ARGUMENTATIVE CONCEPTS
- Social Welfare:
- “The modern state had created greater security for life and property but had limited the capacity of the population to resist effectively arbitrary administrative rule and more arbitrary economic forces.” (Taylor 54)
- Social disintegration:
- “anti-social effect of economic forces in mixed communities.”
- “The functions of the Government is to create a common social will as the basis for a Government that shall represent the people as a whole; to enable this representative Government to stand alone without support from the colonial power; and by a process of social education ensure that the new Government, while complying adequately with the requirements of the modern world, can be made responsible to the people, and thereby achieve the stability that is derived from popular support.” (489-90)
- “The Government cannot represent the people, because in a plural society there is no ‘people’ to be represented. It cannot stand alone because of the racial and economic cleavage between the various sections, of which some may not wish for independence. And it cannot be fully responsible to the people because the great mass of them do not accept the requirements of the modern world.” (489)
- Plural society:
- “it is in the strictest sense a medley, for they mix but do not combine. Each group holds by its own religion, its own culture and language, its own ideas and ways. As individuals they meet, but only in the market-place, in buying and selling. There is a plural society, with different sections of the community living side by side, but separately, within the same political unit. Even in the economic sphere there is a division of labour along racial lines.” (304)
- social reintegration:
- economic reintegration:
- political reintegration:
“…we shall aim at making dependencies capable as soon as possible of independence, not on altruistic grounds or as a grudging concession to nationalist agitation, but on our own intiative in our own interest as a condition of world welfare, and in order to preserve those established political connections between Europe and the tropics which have come into existence through the temporary incapacity of tropical rulers and peoples to accept the conditions of modern civilization.” (550)
- Who are the ‘people’ in Furnivall’s understanding of Burma?
- Timing of book: why does Furnivall advocate for a reform of British colonialism in Burma, guiding towards self-rule and management of free trade capitalism in the context of anti-colonial movements in SEA at the time?
- Who is Furnivall’s audience? What is Furnivall’s politics?
- How does Furnivall have a Marxist reading of culture and history?
- 1602: Dutch East India Company founded
- 1813: East India Company loses trade monopoly (Furnivall identifies beginning of Liberalism in Burma)
- 1824-1825: first Anglo-Burmese war
- 1852: annexation of Pegu and capture of commercial center of Rangoon (administration military and colonial India)
- 1858- British possesions in Burma (along with India) from East India Company to the Crown
- 1852-1870- economic progress, population, production, welfare
- 1869: Suez Canal opens, allowing ships to travel between Europe and S. Asia without navigating around Africa
- 1872- first regular census in British Burma
- 1870: shift from laissez faire to benevolent imperialism, economic progress, welfare for the people
- 1870-1923: progress, administrative policy, population, trade, production, western enterprise, native enterprise
- 1886: Burma annexed into province of India and separated from Bengal
- 1937: Burma becomes separate crown colony
- 1942-1943: Japanese advance on Rangoon and occupation
- 1943: Colonial Policy on international collaboration
- 1947: (September) Burmese independence with Aung San Deputy Chairman of Executive council of Burma (transitional government), (July) assassination of Aung San
- January 4, 1948: independent republic, Union of Burma with Sao Shwe Thaik as first President and U Nu as firs Prime Minister