Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age
The Yellow Shirts in Thailand
Democracy and Its Discontents
Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age is about why ordinary people in a democratizing state oppose democracy and how they leverage both traditional and social media to do so. Aim Sinpeng focuses on the people behind popular, large-scale antidemocratic movements that helped bring down democracy in 2006 and 2014 in Thailand. The yellow shirts (PAD—People’s Alliance for Democracy) that are the focus of the book are antidemocratic movements grown out of democratic periods in Thailand, but became the catalyst for the country’s democratic breakdown. Why, when, and how supporters of these movements mobilize offline and online to bring down democracy are some of the key questions that Sinpeng answers. While the book primarily uses a qualitative methodological approach, it also uses several quantitative tools to analyze social media data in the later chapters. This is one of few studies in the field of regime transition that focuses on antidemocratic mobilization and takes the role of social media seriously.
Aim Sinpeng is Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University of Sydney
Praise / Awards
“This is a theoretically sophisticated study of the politics of antidemocratic movements. It reflects deep empirical knowledge and conceptual analysis of Thai politics, while at the same time showing powerfully that civil society and social media are not inherently liberal. Particularly original is Aim Sinpeng’s emphasis on the agency and process through which ordinary people take down elected leaders. This book is a must-read for scholars and practitioners concerned about the survival of democracies. Its implications are significant.”
—Erik Martinez Kuhonta, McGill University, author of The Institutional Imperative
“Sinpeng's book represents an important contribution to the study of social movements. Using the cases of PAD and PDRC protests in Thailand the book explores the complicated relationship between social movements and democracy. While an active civil society is considered a key to a health democracy, Sinpeng demonstrates how social movements can actually undermine democratic stability. With its extensive use of social media data Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age is a critical resource for those wishing to understand these important parts of Thailand’s political history.”
—Allen Hicken, University of Michigan
“Sinpeng offers a penetrating analysis on one the most urgent and under-researched issues of our time: how antidemocratic forces harness civil society and social media. Essential reading for understanding Thailand’s tumultuous politics with important insights and challenges for the study of civil society and social movements everywhere.”
—Garry Rodan, Honorary Professor, The University of Queensland, Australia
"Who killed Thailand’s democracy? In this exceptionally well-researched book, Aim Sinpeng explains how a mass movement of the country’s middle class came to subvert Thailand’s electoral institutions and enabled democratic breakdown. Sinpeng takes the reader inside the social media ecosystem where digital tools are empowering anti- democratic voices. Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age provides a powerful account of how democracies die in the digital age, and offers unsettling lessons for scholars and activists around the globe."
—Jeremy Menchik, Boston University
"Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age: The Yellow Shirts in Thailand is a key text for understanding Thailand’s tragic descent into authoritarianism... Its attempt to bring theoretical order to the messy realities of the unsettled state of Thailand is something to welcome and engage."
—International Journal of Asian Studies
"The relevance of economic change, and of the new role played by social media, are of particular interest in this analysis, which provides a cogent portrait of Thai politics and class conflict. ...Sinpeng's assessment of what causes governments to rise and fall, and why some citizens may welcome antidemocratic regime change, is compelling. Summing Up: Recommended."
"Theoretically rich and supported by abundant empirical data, this book unravels why the Thai middle class mobilized against democracy and how social media assisted in accelerating this antidemocratic process... this is an important book for those interested in the current political situation in Thailand and how social media has presented contentious political issues through everyone’s smart phones"
"Considering the limited number of studies on anti-democratic movements, this book is a significant contribution to the social movements literature and provides a deeper understanding of the contentious politics of two political networks and their impacts on Thailand’s democratic polity."
—The International Spectator
Winner: Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) 2022 Early Career Book Prize
News, Reviews, Interviews
: Aim Sinpeng at the 2022 APSA Conference | 9/16/2022
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