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The postdevelopmental state : the reconfiguration of political space and the politics of economic reform in South Korea Doucette, Jamie


In this dissertation I examine the restructuring of the South Korean developmental state from a strategic-relational perspective sensitive to how the intersection between democratization and neoliberalization has influenced economic reform. In contrast to conventional approaches to developmental states that stress the autonomy of state from society and limit the contingency of social forces seen as affecting developmental strategies, I argue that it is within the reconfigured political space created by democratization, and shaped by the demands of the reform bloc of liberal and progressive forces that effected the democratic transition, that developmental state reform must be situated. This historic bloc has constituted a key support base for reform-oriented governments of Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun and supplied these governments with key advisors and politicians. However, under these governments, neoliberal policies have expanded, undermining the hegemony of reform governments and leading to debates within the reform bloc over the character of Korean democratization, and the assertion that substantive, egalitarian demands have been neglected. I examine this assertion through an exploration of relations of coordination and conflict within the integral state (of political society and civil society) around efforts to reform the financial policies of the developmental state, to create institutions of social cooperation, to regulate foreign migrant labour, and to promote economic engagement with North Korea. In each of these case studies I outline areas where demands for economic and social justice have been subordinated to demands for national reunification and neoliberal reform and point to some of the wider implications this process holds for the reform movements and for the politics of democratization. To conclude, I survey some of the more recent transformations of the reform bloc under the conservative government of Lee Myung Bak and point to areas of continued tension that reveal that many of the dilemmas of developmental state reform described in this dissertation continue to persist. These dilemmas constitute a strategic political space that democratic reform projects will have to continue to work through if a substantive alternative to the predicaments of the postdevelopmental state is to be found.

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