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8 - Singapore: forming the family for a world city

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2009

Janet Salaff
Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto
Josef Gugler
University of Connecticut
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The Republic of Singapore is a premier example of a state whose developmental trajectory started by taking into account its international and regional location. The government explicitly repositioned the city-state to utilize its historical legacy, spatial location, economic heritage, political structure, and the demographic and ethnic constituency. Two decades after independence, Singapore already emerged as a global “city,” a feat that took others a century to accomplish.

This chapter explores the use of the social services to promote Singapore's status as a world city. A hallmark of Singapore's policy making is the ongoing attention to the comparative advantages and disadvantages of a nation of the “South.” The state applies social engineering to direct the economy and society to affect the nation's place in the global economy. To legitimize its programs, the populace is exhorted to see its fate linked to that of their country and its world status. There are ongoing efforts to anticipate change and adjust manpower policies. Integration into the world economy occasions immense social dislocations, which the social services continue to moderate. The policies at first fit a particular set of circumstances, but dynamically change with conditions (Ho 1995).

I focus on the government's molding a new family on behalf of its development program, the best-known example in a market economy of a society restructured by the state. Social policies shape people's goals as well as how they reach their objectives.

World Cities beyond the West
Globalization, Development and Inequality
, pp. 240 - 267
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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