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‘Malaysia Incorporated’: Corporatism a la Mahathir


  • Jomo Kwame Sundaram

    () (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy)


Mahathir’s “Malaysia Incorporated” policy is reviewed here against how the Malaysian state evolved before the mid-1980s recession, including the first half decade of Mahathir’s premiership. After a decade and a half of growing regulation and public sector expansion, ostensibly to restructure society by strengthening the Malay business and middle classes and in pursuit of Mahathir’s heavy industrialisation project, the policy sought to reverse earlier excesses through some economic and cultural liberalisation following the 1985-1986 recession. This was followed by rapid growth from the late 1980s until the 1997-1998 Asian crisis. While business organisations have had limited, if not declining influence, some individual businessmen have become increasingly politically influential in securing state intervention to advance their particular interests. Mahathir’s corporatism – implied by the “Malaysia Incorporated” slogan – was largely limited to promoting company-level corporatism through in-house unions and better government-business relations. Instead of mobilising and incorporating organised labour – besides the short-lived Malaysian Labour Organization – in his corporatist project, there was little effort to improve industrial relations, suggesting that his corporatist project was largely limited to bridging the ethnic divide, rather than other social divisions.

Suggested Citation

  • Jomo Kwame Sundaram, 2014. "‘Malaysia Incorporated’: Corporatism a la Mahathir," Institutions and Economies (formerly known as International Journal of Institutions and Economies), Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya, vol. 6(1), pages 73-94, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:umk:journl:v:6:y:2014:i:1:p:73-94

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    More about this item


    Corporatism; industrial relations; Malaysia; Mahathir;

    JEL classification:

    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy


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