Erik Kuhonta

Department of Political Science




Research interests

Main Fields Comparative Politics, Southeast Asia

Research Areas Political Development: States, Political Parties, Populism, Regionalism Political Economy: Poverty and Inequality, Social Policy International Affairs: Security Communities Qualitative Methodology: Conceptual Analysis, Comparative-Historical Analysis

Current projects

“The Political Foundations of Equitable Development in Southeast Asia” The central question this manuscript addresses is why some countries in Southeast Asia have pursued a trajectory of equitable development while others have not. Focusing specifically on two countries within Southeast Asia, this study explains why Malaysia has done significantly better than Thailand in achieving equitable development writ large, particularly in the areas of income distribution, rural development, taxation, health, and education. Variation in equitable development between these two countries can be traced to differences in political institutions. The presence of an ethnic, mass-based institutionalized party in Malaysia has been the key factor that has allowed the state to advance social reforms. By contrast, the absence of such a type of party in Thailand and the dominance of the military bureaucracy has limited the reach of social reforms. This book seeks to contribute to studies of comparative-history, state-society relations, and development policy.

“Southeast Asia in Political Science: Theory, Region, and Qualitative Analysis” This project, in collaboration with Dan Slater (University of Chicago) and Tuong Vu (Naval Postgraduate School), intends to sharpen the dialogue between comparative politics and Southeast Asian studies as well as to provide a state-of-the-art review of the field of Southeast Asian politics. The project emphasizes how qualitative methodology typically employed in Southeast Asian studies – comparative-history, case studies, and ethnography – has led to the development of middle-level theory in political science. The project’s output includes a workshop held at the Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University on 18-19 June 2004, a roundtable held at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore on 16 November 2004, and an edited volume currently in the final stages of revision.

“Political Parties and Party Systems in Asia” This project, in collaboration with Allen Hicken (University of Michigan) and Suzaina Kadir (National University of Singapore) is designed to reexamine political parties and party systems in Northeast and Southeast Asia. It seeks to challenge existing literatures on parties and party systems that are based on the experience of Western European and Latin American political systems. This project assesses and critiques these earlier models using Asian empirics to build a more appropriate analytical framework. The framework will focus on the concept of party and party system institutionalization in democratic and non-democratic settings. Two key questions will frame the book: (1) to what extent are Asian parties and party systems institutionalized? (2) what explains the process and pattern of institutionalization? The project is at an early drafting stage and will hold a workshop at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore on 10-11 August 2006.

“ASEAN and the Makings of an Illiberal Peace” This paper examines the relationship between ASEAN’s norms of non-interference and the quest for democracy in Burma. Currently at a revise and resubmit stage at Pacific Review.

“Populism in Thailand” This project, in collaboration with Alex Mutebi (National University of Singapore) assesses the politics and economics of populism under the Thaksin Shinawatra government. In the long-term, it intends to draw out a comparative analysis of populist leadership in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Italy.