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Promoting Social Democratic Thinking, Alternatives and Practices

Quarterly

The Network publishes its own quarterly, Socdem Asia Quarterly, which aims to reflect the discourse of the Network and the leading intellectuals across the region and beyond about most pertinent developments of concern to social democrats. The Quarterly expounds on policies, perspectives and lessons learned from social democratic political practice in the region as well as reflections and experiences from Social Democrats worldwide. Along with Quarterly, the Socdem Asia website offers Op-Eds, interviews, and editorial opinions on latest developments across Asia-Pacific to a broader audience.

Combatting COVID-19: A Social Democratic Response

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There is a scene in the novel The Plague by French author Albert Camus that would break even the stoutest of hearts.

For nearly six months, a bubonic outbreak had been ravaging the port city of Oran, off the Algerian coast. Though troubled by the death and suffering of the people around him, town physician Dr. Bernard Rieux decided to “steel himself against pity,” believing that it was the only way he could face the “almost unendurable burden of his days.”

But his own deep humanity began to show when a little boy named Philippe contracted the fatal disease. Desperate to save the child's life, Rieux had Philippe inoculated, injecting him with an untested serum that was meant to arrest the spread of the infection...but to no avail.

For an entire day, Rieux stood helplessly at the foot of Philippe's bed, watching in silence as the boy gritted his teeth and tossed his body in utter agony. With every convulsion, Rieux tightened his grip on the bed railing, hoping to stem the tide of grief and anger welling up inside him.

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Push Back! Against Shrinking Democratic Space

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On 20 November 2019, opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of Future Forward Party (FWP) was stripped of his parliamentary seat by Thailand’s military-backed Constitutional Court. Though intended to harass the country’s budding opposition, Thanathorn and his party comrades exhibited considerable grace and confidence as they hosted a regional conference on the emerging threats to democracy three days later.

Held in Bangkok from November 23 to 25, the event brought together more than three dozen participants from seven countries, stretching two continents. The conference, which was organized by the Network for Social Democracy in Asia (Socdem Asia), examined the authoritarian consequences of the rising populist movement and the actions that must be undertaken to address this danger.

By comparing the existing academic literature with actual political experience, the conference provided a useful framework to help democrats: (1) understand the global rise of populism; (2) reflect on the political situation in their respective countries; and (3) develop a unified response to the challenges that they now commonly face. This enabled the participants to have a shared conception of populism as a political doctrine that divides citizens into two competing camps — the exploited “common people” on one hand, and the corrupt and privileged elite on the other.

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Combatting Disinformation: Active Citizenship and Progressive Politics in the Age of Fake News

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When the World Wide Web was finally made public on 6 August 1991, most political pundits greeted this event with excitement enthusiasm, claiming that this new form of virtual technology will be an absolute boon for democracy. The free flow of information, they argued, will not only empower ordinary citizens, but would also undermine ossified bureaucracies and disrupt outmoded forms of administrative practices.

In fact, as late as 2003, communications professor Gary Selnow of the San Francisco State University was still insisting that the “internet can play a significant role in preparing people for the transition to democracy,” since “it links people across borders (and) prepares people for an open and civil society.”

Other scholars, however, have been more cautious, stating that communications technology can be a powerful political tool in the hands of skilled spinmeisters. Francis Fukuyama, for instance, once asserted that “communications technology itself is value-neutral,” and that “they would have been used to great effects by Nazi propagandists like Leni Reifenstahl and Joseph Goebbels to promote fascist rather than democratic ideals.”

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