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Malaysia: State and Civil Society in Transition

Vidhu Verma
Malaysia: State and Civil Society in Transition
ISBN: 978-1-58826-091-8
2002/253 pages/LC: 2002017813

"Verma's book will prove extremely useful to scholars working on issues of democratization, civil society, and Islamic politics seeking a window into understanding the Malaysian case. Southeast Asian politics and Malaysia politics specialists will also find Verma's argument thought provoking. —Page Johnson Tan, Journal of Asian Studies Asian Journal of Political Science

"[Verma] attempts and succeeds in exploring the major themes in Malaysian politics with emphasis on development of its civil society."—Perlita M. Frago, Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics

"This is an important book.... It clearly demonstrates the major constraints faced by civil society in contributing to the development of democracy and cultural pluralism in [Malaysia]."—P. Ramasamy, Contemporary Southeast Asia

"The first serious scholarly attempt to understand the dynamics and implications of the post-Anwar phase of Islamic resurgence in Malaysia, within the broader context of globalization."—Osman Bakar


Vidhu Verma tracks two simultaneous processes in Malaysia: the increasing aspirations for democratic governance, and the emergence of the Islamic party as a major force in Malaysian politics.

Verma argues that rapid and often forced modernization and development have created severe tensions in contemporary Malaysia, providing Islamist parties with the space to create a political-cultural identity for the Malays. Tracing the historical and political dynamics underlying nearly twenty years of authoritarian rule, she addresses five central issues: secular nationalism, Islam, citizenship, democracy, and human rights. She demonstrates that the present Islamic resurgence has so far expanded the frontiers of civil society in the country, but cautions that neither democracy nor civil liberties will be sustainable if the forces of civil society allow repression of individual rights in the name of religious conformity and moral conduct.


Vidhu Verma is professor of political studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Her publications include Justice, Equality, and Community: An Essay in Marxist Political Theory.


  • Introduction.
  • Nationalism and Nation-building.
  • Citizenship and the New Economic Policy.
  • Islam and the Malay Community.
  • State, Authoritarianism, and Plural Society.
  • Debating Human Rights.
  • Conclusion.
No rights in Malaysia.