Dissertation Outline: Positive Governance

Kan Yuenyong
15 min readSep 12, 2023


  1. Introduction

Discussion about Definition of Governance {paradigm, origins, usage, value free or laden, etc}

In examining global governance models, three distinct yet enduringly successful styles emerge: the Anglophone system, the Scandinavian system, and the Oriental benevolent authoritarian regime. The Anglophone style emphasizes individual rights and free-market mechanisms, fostering competition, innovation, and personal freedoms. The Scandinavian approach champions trust-building, consensus-driven decision-making, and collective responsibility, which has cultivated cohesive societies with comprehensive welfare systems. Meanwhile, the Oriental benevolent authoritarian model, exemplified by Singapore, combines a high degree of governmental control with long-term planning and a focus on societal harmony. While each system is unique and rooted in its cultural and historical context, their time-tested resilience and effectiveness underscore their significance in the study of global governance.

2. Literature Review

Fukuyama’s Governance (review in this style)

Political Philosophy (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau)

Comparative Study: Thailand vs Malaysia

contemporary Thailand:

See cultural interpretation as superstructure vs base in Marxist interpretation

Cultural and Identity Dimension: Huntington’s Who are we, Fukuyama: Identity

More than two millennia before its advent, Socrates and Adeimantus understood a critical aspect of the human psyche that remains unacknowledged by modern economics. In addition to desire and reason, there exists a third component, thymos, which operates independently of the other two. Thymos is the seat of judgments of worth. Unlike mere desires for external objects, thymos represents a craving for positive judgments about one’s worth or dignity.

As described by Fukuyama:

“Human beings do not just want things that are external to themselves, such as food, drink, Lamborghinis, or that next hit. They also crave positive judgments about their worth or dignity. Those judgments can come from within, but they are most often made by other people in the society around them who recognize their worth. If they receive that positive judgment, they feel pride, and if they do not receive it, they feel either anger (when they think they are being undervalued) or shame (when they realize that they have not lived up to other people’s standards).”

This understanding of thymos informs our model, allowing us to capture the complex interplay between human desires, judgments of worth, and the influence of cultural and religious factors on governance.

Mixed Method Research

Quantitative: SEM (see WVS), Optimizing technique (Genetic Alrorithm)

Qualitative: Interview, Research Questions

Research questions for a comparative study on governance systems in Southeast Asia:

1. Why did Hindu states, such as Srivijaya (671–1025s AD), Langkasuka (2nd to 15th centuries AD), Tambralinga (970–1365 AD), and Majapahit (1293–1527 AD) fade from maritime Southeast Asia?

2. Why did maritime Southeast Asian states, particularly Malaysia, opt for Islamic governance over Buddhist systems, unlike their mainland counterparts?

3. Despite its significant influence in South Asia, why didn’t the Mughal Empire exert a similar influence over maritime Southeast Asia?

4. Given that the Ottoman Empire utilized the Janissaries system to maintain stability as suggested by Fukuyama in “The Origin of Political Order,” how did maritime Southeast Asian states approach or adapt to similar concepts? Were such systems deemed unnecessary due to their distinct geographical constraints and socio-political structures, which differ from their mainland counterparts?

5. To what extent has the semi-colonial practice — where power was shared between traditional sultanate rulers and Western colonizers like the Portuguese, Dutch, and British — influenced the present-day balance of power between traditional rulers and politicians in contemporary Malaysian governance? (Which tends to generate less practicing of Coup d’état unlike in Thailand and Myanmar?) — The 1968 protests in Malaysia stand out when examining the regional context. Considering their temporal proximity to Singapore’s 1963 Operation Coldstore and the mass killings in Indonesia from 1965–66, it’s plausible that they were influenced by the pervasive Cold War communist ideologies of the era.

6. To what extent, as suggested by Fukuyama in “The Origin of Political Order,” has the “organic disobedience culture” manifested during the subtle integration of Hindu communities within the Mughal governance system influenced the enduring practices of civil society in India? Additionally, are there parallels or contrasts to this phenomenon in maritime Southeast Asian states, particularly in the context of their transitions from Hindu to Islamic governance?

7. How did the trade patterns and networks in maritime Southeast Asia influence the religious and political shifts from Hinduism to Islam?

8. What role did geopolitics and international alliances play in the religious transitions of maritime Southeast Asian states?

9. Were there any internal socio-political movements within maritime Southeast Asian states that contributed to the shift from Hindu to Islamic governance?

10. How did colonial interactions mold the legal and administrative structures in maritime Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia, and how have these structures evolved in the post-colonial era?

11. In what ways have the unique maritime geographies of Southeast Asian states influenced their socio-political and religious trajectories, especially when compared to their mainland counterparts?

12. How did the geopolitical positioning and historical interactions with neighboring empires, such as Ayutthaya, influence the nature of European colonization in the Malay Peninsula, resulting in a different colonization experience compared to Java, which saw a more direct control and subsequently a bloodier path to independence?

13. How have the principles of “civic religion,” as introduced by Rousseau, and the interplay of personal worth and recognition as discussed in Fukuyama’s “Identity” via the lens of Plato’s thymos, come to influence the construction and evolution of national identity? Further, how does Huntington’s exploration of identity in “Who Are We?” shed light on the selection and role of both official and unofficial national religions in shaping statecraft and societal bonds in Southeast Asian polities? Actually, it was also Hegel to propose “civic religion”, see “Hegel, a history” (p. 5/51)

14. Why has Thai society successfully integrated its Chinese descendants but faces challenges with the Muslim population in its southern provinces? Conversely, Malaysia has had difficulties assimilating its Chinese and Indian communities. It’s worth noting the distinct approaches in the region: Singapore, for instance, has taken a proactive model of active pluralism affirmation. This is exemplified through measures like the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) in public housing, which ensures a balanced racial mix to promote racial harmony. In contrast, Malaysia’s Bumiputera policy gives special privileges to the Malay and indigenous communities, reflecting a different strategy of nation-building. How might these varied approaches offer insights into integration and harmony?

15. In the past, particularly during King Rama VI’s reign, Thailand faced challenges assimilating its significant Thai-Chinese community, once even analogizing the Chinese to “Oriental Jews.” How have the historical interactions, linguistic policies, and geopolitical contexts since then shaped the modern assimilation and perception of Chinese minorities in Thailand? And when contrasted with Malaysia’s approach towards its Chinese and Indian communities, what are the broader implications of these strategies for nation-building, governance, and the pursuit of pluralism in Southeast Asia?

Got any more ideas? I’m really trying to dig deep into the differences between how mainland Southeast Asia and maritime Southeast Asia govern themselves.

[Thailand and Malaysia, situated within the intricate Southeast Asian landscape, epitomize the dynamics of mainland and maritime regions respectively. Thailand’s inland geography, shaped by neighboring powers like China and India, fostered a governance rooted in Buddhist traditions. In contrast, Malaysia’s position along critical maritime trade routes led to a distinct Islamic-influenced governance, further complicated by a “semi-colonial” relationship with European powers. By juxtaposing these two nations, it’s interesting to elucidate the broader patterns of governance, religion, and geopolitics that delineate mainland from maritime influences in Southeast Asia.]

Another important commentator from the classical period whose work became popular in Muslim Southeast Asia was ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar al-Baydawi (d. 1286). Like many of the classical exegetes, al-Baydawi was of Persian ancestry. He produced a Qur’anic commentary, entitled Anwar al-tanzil wa asrar al-ta’wil (The Lights of Revelation and the Secrets of Interpretation), which employs a technique of phrase-by-phrase exegesis. This commentary was notable for a number of reasons.


From A review on genetic algorithm: past, present, and future

3. Definition:

Religion: Religion is posited as a dynamic, multifaceted system, not merely a set of practices but an evolving narrative that informs spiritual, cultural, and ethical dimensions of human life. It is acknowledged as a complex interplay between individual experiences and collective rituals, underscored by institutional structures. This definition aptly captures the fluidity and adaptability of religion as it morphs over time and across different societal and cultural milieus.

Culture: The definition of culture is expanded to encompass a broad array of human expressions and social constructs, ranging from language and art to traditions and rituals. It acknowledges the diverse influences that shape culture, including historical, geographical, and social factors, emphasizing its dynamic and ever-evolving nature. This perspective recognizes culture as both a product and a process, continually forged and re-forged by the people within it and the influences around it.

Identity: Identity is described as a deeply personal yet socially influenced construct, an ongoing process of self-definition shaped by a myriad of factors. This definition recognizes the complexity and fluidity of identity, acknowledging its multifaceted and intersectional nature. It aptly reflects the modern understanding of identity as not static but continuously constructed and reconstructed through interactions with the social world and personal introspection.


Civic Religion: A secular, moral framework that guides individuals in a society to balance their inner moral autonomy with their duties to the community. It is underpinned by a collective quest for mutual recognition and respect for human dignity. It’s about adhering to shared values and norms that ensure the common good, while also acknowledging and fostering the moral development and recognition of each individual. This civic religion evolves as society changes, influenced by historical events, cultural shifts, and philosophical developments, striving towards a more inclusive and respectful human coexistence.


In Rousseau’s view, “civic religion” is essentially about the social contract and the moral, collective consciousness that binds a community together. It’s a secular system, distinct from personal religious beliefs, focusing on the shared values and duties that ensure the common good. Rousseau’s idea of the inner self and the outer society suggests that while personal freedom is fundamental, it is also crucial to adhere to the collective norms and values that sustain the society. This civic religion is about balancing individual freedom with social responsibility.

From Kant’s perspective, the concept of “civic religion” might align more with the idea of moral autonomy and the capacity for moral choice based on reason. Here, civic religion isn’t about adhering to divine laws but about following universally accepted moral laws derived from human reason. It’s a secular, ethical framework that guides individuals to act out of duty for the common good, not just personal benefit or divine command.

Hegel introduces a different dimension to the concept, focusing on the human desire for recognition and dignity. In a Hegelian sense, “civic religion” could be understood as the collective struggle for mutual recognition of human dignity and moral agency. It’s not just about internal moral autonomy (as in Kant) or social contracts (as in Rousseau), but about the ongoing historical process of seeking and granting recognition, which culminates in a society where all members understand and respect each other’s inherent dignity and worth.

In synthesizing these perspectives, “civic religion” can be defined as a secular, moral framework that guides individuals in a society to balance their inner moral autonomy with their duties to the community. It is underpinned by a collective quest for mutual recognition and respect for human dignity. It’s about adhering to shared values and norms that ensure the common good, while also acknowledging and fostering the moral development and recognition of each individual. This civic religion evolves as society changes, influenced by historical events, cultural shifts, and philosophical developments, striving towards a more inclusive and respectful human coexistence.


Operational Definition:

  1. Moral Framework:
  • Moral Alignment Scale: Measure the degree to which individuals’ moral beliefs align with the dominant religious or secular values in their community through surveys or ethical dilemma tests.
  • Religious Influence Index: Quantify the influence of religious values on individuals’ moral decisions through self-report surveys or analysis of religious affiliations and practices.

2. Trust in Public Institutions:

  • Institutional Trust Scale: Assess individuals’ trust in governmental, legal, and public service institutions through surveys asking about confidence, perceived integrity, and effectiveness.
  • Perceived Transparency and Accountability Measures: Quantify through surveys assessing how transparent and accountable individuals perceive their public institutions to be.

3. Devotion to Public Engagement:

  • Civic Participation Rate: Measure the frequency and variety of participation in civic activities like voting, community service, and public forums.
  • Engagement Depth Index: Assess the depth of involvement in public initiatives and the sense of responsibility towards communal well-being through detailed activity logs and self-report measures.

4. Respect or Tolerance for Other Beliefs:

  • Tolerance Index: Measure tolerance for diverse religious and cultural beliefs through scenario-based surveys and reports of intercultural/interfaith interactions.
  • Inclusivity and Acceptance Scale: Assess the level of inclusivity and acceptance in community spaces and institutions, focusing on how minority beliefs and practices are accommodated.

5. Adaptability to Changing Circumstances:

  • Cultural Adaptability Scale: Quantify individuals’ ability to adapt to social, cultural, and environmental changes through surveys measuring openness to new experiences and flexibility in thinking.
  • Normative Evolution Tracking: Measure changes in community norms, values, and behaviors over time to assess societal adaptability and responsiveness to new circumstances.


Identity management:

Definition of Positive Governance

“Positive Governance” is a multidimensional and dynamic process characterized by the interplay between a state’s institutional capacity, legal frameworks, and the extent of democratic accountability. Inspired by Fukuyama’s evolutionary perspective of political order and decay, governance can be conceptually understood through an equilibrium model. This model posits governance (G) as a function (𝑓) of a Strong State (S), embodying security and administrative efficacy, and the combined Rule of Law and Democratic Accountability (Z), ensuring justice and citizen participation, moderated by various external factors (β) like economic conditions and geopolitical influences.

G = 𝑓(S, Z) + β

This equilibrium reflects the ideal balance where state capacity complements democratic mechanisms, leading to effective, responsive, and sustainable governance. However, acknowledging the complex and often nonlinear nature of these relationships, the model serves more as a conceptual framework rather than a predictive formula, guiding the exploration of how different governance structures emerge and adapt over time.

The model recognizes the diversity in governance across different societies, shaped by historical, cultural, and contextual factors. This diversity is not inherently detrimental but reflects varying priorities and societal values. Therefore, the optimum state of governance is not a universal standard but a spectrum of effective governance models tailored to specific societal needs and conditions.

Empirical validation of this model is pursued through comparative studies, employing methods like Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) to explore the intricate relationships between the state’s capacity, rule of law, democratic accountability, and other influencing factors. This approach aims not only to test the theoretical framework but also to understand the practical implications and variations in governance across different contexts.
In summary, governance is a complex, adaptive system influenced by institutional capabilities, legal norms, democratic processes, and external factors. It’s a continuum of models, each reflecting the unique tapestry of societal needs, priorities, and historical legacies. While theoretical models like the proposed equilibrium offer valuable insights, they serve as guides rather than definitive descriptors, requiring continual refinement and empirical testing to capture the nuanced reality of political governance.

Extra Notion:

In addition to the well-defined equilibrium between a strong state (S) and the rule of law and democratic accountability (Z), it’s essential to acknowledge an additional, critical dimension for future study: the impact of societal resilience and adaptability. This aspect, while not directly integrated into the current governance equation G=𝑓(S,Z)+β stands as a vital area for further exploration.

Societal resilience and adaptability encompass a society’s capacity to absorb, respond to, and evolve amidst various challenges, such as demographic shifts, economic volatility, environmental crises, and technological transformations. This dimension is particularly relevant in the context of identity management, as it reflects how a society navigates and harmonizes the complexities of diverse identities and cultural dynamics.

The interplay between societal resilience and governance is intricate and multi-faceted. A resilient society can bolster governance by fostering a more cohesive, engaged, and adaptable populace. Conversely, effective governance can enhance societal resilience by creating a stable and just environment that supports diversity and fosters innovation.

While this aspect is not currently encapsulated within the governance model, its relevance and potential impact suggest that it warrants significant attention in future research. Understanding and integrating societal resilience and adaptability into governance studies could provide deeper insights into the dynamics of political order, social cohesion, and long-term sustainability of governance systems. This exploration would be particularly pertinent in addressing the evolving challenges of the 21st century and in enhancing our comprehension of the diverse tapestries of governance across different societies.

4. Theoretical Framework

Evolution of Human Societies: From Early Hominins to Classical Empires

This table synthesizes a timeline that traces the progression of human societies against a backdrop of evolutionary and geological changes, offering insights into the political evolution of humanity as inspired by philosophers like Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, and contemporary thinkers like Fukuyama. It starts with the emergence of early hominins, highlighting the evolutionary journey from Homo habilis to the ascendance of Homo sapiens, underscoring key advancements such as tool-making, the control of fire, and the development of complex social behaviors.

The timeline also aligns these human milestones with major geological epochs, especially the Pleistocene and Holocene periods, illustrating how climatic shifts and environmental factors played a crucial role in shaping human societies and their need for political structures. The shift from nomadic lifestyles to settled agriculture, marked by the Neolithic Revolution, signifies a fundamental transformation in human organization and social contracts, resonating with the philosophical inquiries into the nature of human society and governance.

As the timeline advances towards the establishment of early cities and civilizations, it reflects on the evolution of political systems, from rudimentary tribal structures to sophisticated states and empires, such as the Roman Empire. This progression exemplifies the concept of humans as ‘political animals’ (Aristotle), evolving from bands and tribes into complex societies where political order, power dynamics, and governance structures become integral to survival and prosperity.

The discoveries of Homo naledi and Homo luzonensis represent revolutionary contributions to our understanding of human evolution, revealing an unexpected complexity and diversity in the hominin lineage. Homo naledi, discovered in 2013, with its unique blend of primitive and modern traits, challenges the previously linear perspective of human evolution. Following this, the identification of Homo luzonensis in 2019, based on remains found in 2007, further underscores this complexity. This species, found in the Philippines, broadens our understanding of the geographical spread and morphological diversity of early hominins. Together, these findings necessitate a reevaluation of the evolutionary timeline, suggesting concurrent existence and potential interactions among various human relatives. They not only add new branches to our evolutionary tree but also compel a rethinking of the nature of human ancestry, emphasizing the intricate and multifaceted journey of human evolution.

งานวิจัยในปี ค.ศ. 2007 โดยใช้การจำลองโดยคอมพิวเตอร์ที่ใช้ข้อมูลจากซากดึกดำบรรพ์ของ A. afarensis และระยะห่างของรอยเท้าที่พบแสดงว่า hominin เหล่านี้เดินด้วยความเร็วประมาณ 1.0 เมตร/วินาที หรือเร็วกว่านั้น ซึ่งเป็นความเร็วประมาณเท่ามนุษย์ปัจจุบัน

This table thus provides a holistic view of human history, interweaving the biological evolution of humans with their political evolution, and offering a context to understand how contemporary political theories may find roots in the very journey of human development.

5. Data

6. Discussion

7. Resources




Kan Yuenyong

A geopolitical strategist who lives where a fine narrow line amongst a collision of civilizations exists.