Uneven crises: Institutional foundations of East Asian economic turmoil

J. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While rejecting arguments that locate the blame for the East Asian economic crisis in simplistic notions of 'crony capitalism', this paper supplements analyses which have focused on the role of international finance capital. It does so by suggesting that there were real internal causes of the crisis in the countries most affected and that these were intimately associated with asymmetrical state institutional capacities to mediate between the domestic and international economies. Nothing that the symptoms of crisis in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong were quite different from those in Korea, the paper suggests that these differences were not coincidental. Rather they are traceable to these asymmetric state capacities. Inter alia, the paper explores the role of Overseas Chinese conglomerates and state actors in the development of structurally weak economies in the Southeast Asian countries, and asks whether the 'fundamentals' of the real economies in question (including Korea) were indeed robust, as some commentators have argued. Analysing recent data on innovation and terms of trade, the paper answers in the negative. Throughout, the paper emphasizes the substantial institutional differences between the East Asian crisis countries so as to combat accounts - be they orthodox or radical - which advance monadic explanations for the turmoil. In so doing it insists that part of the explanation of why the crisis emerged in Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, etc., must involve an appreciation of why it has not (or at least not yet) emerged in Taiwan and Singapore. The paper, however, is not merely an account of the differing internal causes of the crisis. Ultimately it is a discourse on the uneven presence and differing forms of 'developmental states' in the region, and on their past, present and future possibilities for effective economic governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-368
Number of pages41
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Chinese business networks
  • Developmental state
  • East Asia
  • Economic crisis
  • Economic governance
  • Portfolio investment
  • Property markets
  • Speculation

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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