ethnicrels.pdf - SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ISSUES NO 1(2000 Ethnic Relations in Peninsular Malaysia The Cultural and Economic Dimensions Lee Hock Guan SOCIAL

ethnicrels.pdf - SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ISSUES NO 1(2000...

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SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ISSUES NO. 1(2000) Ethnic Relations in Peninsular Malaysia: The Cultural and Economic Dimensions Lee Hock Guan
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SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ISSUES NO. 1(2000) August 2000 Ethnic Relations in Peninsular Malaysia: The Cultural and Economic Dimensions Lee Hock Guan ISEAS Fellow © 2000 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies ISSN 0218-8961
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ETHNIC RELATIONS IN PENINSULAR MALAYSIA: THE CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS Abstract This paper looks at the changing ethnic relations in Peninsular Malaysia in terms of the interactions between the state’s policies to advance Malay cultural dominance and reduce ethnic economic inequality and the aspirations and actions of the Chinese community. The state of ethnic relations partly will depend on whether the majority of the ethnic members, in particular the ethnic elites, are pursuing separatist or amalgamative strategies and goals, and on whether the rival ethnic groups stand in positions of marked inequality or near equality to each other. In this sense, since the 1969 ethnic riots, ethnic relations have eluded out right conflicts in part because the rival ethnic communities have pursued mainly amalgamative strategies and goals, and in part because the economic inequality gap has narrowed between the Malays and non-Malays. However, the expanding place of Islam in the Malay personal, and hence collective, identity and the relative success in making social classes more multiethnic have added additional complexities to the future of ethnic relations. Introduction Ethnicity remains the most potent force in Malaysia even if of late its influence has been somewhat adulterated by other social stratification forces, principally class and gender. The potency of ethnicity lies in its ability to combine both affective and instrumental appeals. As members of distinct and self-conscious cultural communities, Malays, Chinese and Indians naturally were inclined to identify with and treasure their respective languages, cultures and religions, and thus actively strived to preserve and propagate them. 1 Since they share a common pool of generalized symbols and values, the ethnic members would primarily socialize and associate with their own. Ethnicity thus continues to constitute an integral constituent of the individual Malaysia psyche and ethnic membership critically demarcates his/her social life and taste. It follows that the effectiveness of affective appeals originates from the evident passionate
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2 attachments to a particular ethnicity that continue to sway individual identification and pattern of social life. Passionate attachments are readily excited for the purposes of galvanizing ethnic individuals to preserve, protect and promote their culture, language, and religion. Historically, in Malaysia, the affective appeals also became intimately intertwined with the instrumental pursuit of political and economic goals that aimed to manipulate the system and distribution of rewards in preference of the particular ethnic members.
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