ABSTRACT

Now approaching their fifth decade of independence, the Southeast Asian states are exhibiting increased confidence. Although their methods and organization may not find understanding or approval in the West, their neotraditional approaches to government constitute a statement that Southeast Asians have rediscovered and reasserted an indigenous identity. The tenacity of traditional behavior patterns within the domestic context is visible in the structures and functioning of government as well as in policy prescriptions. This is not to argue against change, however, for change is occurring everywhere in Southeast Asia. I am also not arguing that neotraditional behavior is a euphemism for emerging "backwardness." Change takes place as new patterns of behavior and institutions are adopted by Southeast Asians, and this happens largely as adaptation within the framework of historical and cultural understandings. Southeast Asians may readily adopt new forms or practices, but the adoption process requires familiarization with and adaptation to forms that are comfortable and understandable within the context of local experience. With the passage of time, responses to change have been defined more consistently in indigenous terms, even when Western forms, labels, or concepts may continue to be employed.