From Traction to Friction in Thailand: The Emerging Southeast Asian Development Problematique

Jonathan Rigg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Using the notion of an emerging development problematique in Southeast Asia, this paper uses Thailand to argue that the development challenge is not being solved by economic growth, but reworked. Furthermore, while the policy aims of the early development era could be quite easily identified, measured and addressed, those that have emerged since the Millennium have proved to be more difficult to specify and less amenable to resolution. Drawing on village studies in northeast Thailand, this paper argues that the social adjustments and perturbations engendered by development have created second-order, often more intractable problems and challenges. In this way, the development traction of the early development decades has frequently turned into friction, with the state and its planning and development agencies increasingly struggling to meet both their own objectives and the aspirations of those for whom development was intended. It is also argued that Thailand's problematique is reflected in three emerging gaps: a development gap between what the Thai government is attempting to achieve and the willingness of the Thai population to join in that journey; a political gap reflected in Thailand's Red Shirt/Yellow Shirt conflict; and an aspirational gap between what has been achieved and what is aspired to.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalTRaNS: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia
Issue number1
Early online date16 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • development
  • planning
  • prosperity
  • Southeast Asia
  • Thailand
  • well-being


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