The 'Malay Problem': Thinking with Emile Durkheim

Mr Kamaludeen Mohamed Nasir
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A lot has been said over the past few decades with regards to the “Malay Problem” and this talk of the Malay problem has been a feature of Singapore politics ever since its early inception. This paper will attempt to look at the issue of the “Malay Problem” through the lenses of Emile Durkheim and deploy the intellectual tools that he has delineated. I will argue that the Malays are characterized by a mechanical solidarity within an organic solidarity that governs the rest of highly industrialized capitalist Singapore.

This tension between the Malays and the larger society has lead to a deregulation amongst a portion of the Malays, slipping into anomie which manifests itself in social problems. It will locate the failure of the Malays to integrate into the larger social setting due to their rejection of secular English education; at least during the formative years of Singapore’s infancy. Finally, I will argue that the “problem” of the Malays does not necessarily need to be seen as pathological. It is normal and has a function to play in the moral formation of social life in Singapore. Not only that, the portraying of the Malay situation as a “problem” and as being a deviant facet of Singaporean life benefits the state and the society at large.

Keywords: Durkheim, Malay, Social Problems, Economic Backwardness, Solidarity, Division of Labour
Stream: Sociology and Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Mr Kamaludeen Mohamed Nasir

Postgraduate Research Scholar, Postgraduate Research Scholar
Sociology Department
Faculty of Arts and the Social Sciences
National University of Singapore, National University of Singapore


Ref: I06P0265