The cultural logic of Najibo-nomics

By Azly Rahman

Fashionable it may seem to credit this or that “economic miracle” episode to this or that country to the name of its leader, economist, dictator, emperor, etc. – the larger picture of the historical march of “freakonomics” is neglected.

Freakonomics is what the global society was plagued with beginning with the American sub-prime-inspired crisis; a breakdown of the world’s casino-capitalist system.

Fashionable it may seem to cite this or that case-study to a proposed “Harvard” study, just like calling a university “Harvard of the East” or “Princeton of the Peripheries” or “Oxford of the Outbacks” or even “Cambridge of the Caribbean” – it misses the point of what and how casino capitalism works.

It misses the point that the world is undergoing yet another wave of perpetual revolution in the field of economic thinking.

Malaysians are into this fashionable game of assigning this or that terminology to this or that epoch of “economic cultural depression and how these are cured”.

Like the style of historicising that assigns this or that age to this or that person, resulting in epochs of historical vaingloriousness, Malaysians have seen periodisation of its capitalist march, in names such as “Mahathirism”, “Badawi-ism”, and now “Najibo-nomics”.

Not much was seen in names such as “Tunku-nomics” (after Tunku Abdul Rahman), Razak-ism (after Abdul Razak Hussein), and Hussein-nomics or Hussein-ism (after Hussein Onn).

Perhaps we did not really pay attention to how the pre-Mahathir era leaders address issues. We did not see words such as “Doctrine” attached as affix to these names to read “Tunku Doctrine” or the likes.

The politics of names

History that glorifies individuals is a result of historicising that involves forced authoring of name. Hence, dynasties in China are generally named after individuals and Empires in India, after their first rulers.

In modern times, we saw terms such as “Thatcherism”, “Reaganism” or “Reaganomics” and perhaps “Obama-nomics” after we saw “Obama-mania”.

At the beginning of the century we saw Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, and the “Kennedy Era”. Then there were Hitlerism, Bismarkian era, and Tokugawa Period. The Islamic world saw names such as Wahhabi-ism and Khomeini-ism.

Post-Independence Southeast Asia saw Marcos-era, Sukarnoism with its Marhaenism and Ganyang-Malaysia-ism replaced by Modern Day-Yudistira-ism of Suhartoism. We saw Lee Kuan Yew-styled Asian Despotism and the 22-year rule of Mahathirism.

As if there is not enough of the game of glorifying persons in history, the modern media too is continuing the politics of false-consciousness; masking the larger picture of oppression of those nameless masses in the march towards the perfection of casino capitalism.

Logic of capitalism

Philosophically positioned, capitalism takes Nature, turns it into Technology, and engineers the evolution of culture that structures the divisions of classes of people, through the installation process of the “machine in the garden” and the transforming of human beings into labor and commodities.

Ultimately, Technology subdues Nature and thrusts Humanity into a matrix of complexities that relegates human beings as cogs in the wheels of Capital.

Capitalism is a system of predatory economics, sanctioned by the evolution of power, knowledge, and ideology. It must be looked at not by the “epochs” of rulership of these or that kings, tyrants, or despots, but culturally as a system that has a logic and its own system of periodisation.

It requires the unmasking of the psychology and culture of human control, bondage, and the abuse of control apparatuses, in order to sustain an economic system that will naturally create a complex system of ownership rationalized through yet another system of production of culture as commodity, and production of strategies of mystification that provides false consciousness and happiness to those exploited by those who own the means of economic, cultural, and intellectual production.

The evolution of tribes, nations, and countries need not be seen as linear, following Rostowian idea of developmental economics, framed by Friedmanian doctrine.

The premises underlying these ideas need to be studied, critiqued, and made culturally relevant in all of our institutions of higher learning.

We must also demand our students to master the concepts and applications of radical economic ideas that put back human dignity in the march of meaningful human progress.

In this case, why not challenge them to explore ecological socialism and sustainable developmental paradigm by having them study the economics and social systems of the indigenous peoples of Malaysia, such as the Penans, Ibans, and Kadazan-dusuns?

For too long, we have been so obsessed with creating wealth and destroying Nature rather than spreading wealth and preserving Nature.

The middle name

Back to “Najibo-nomics”.

I do not think it is necessary to give birth to this name. I think there is, in the words of a research or case-study strategy, those who proposed that the name must triangulate the data of Malaysia’s claim to economic invulnerability.

One must not only study numbers crunched officially and bury human beings under those numbers that are then trumpeted across the globe.

One must go back to Malaysia’s timeline of economic history and look at the country from a culturally-kaleidoscopic perspective, from the lens other than what structural functionalists would use.

The world we inhabit in is not merely a celestial body tattooed culturally and stylized by economic numerology; we live in a structurally violent world of the powerful and the powerless, of the haves and the have-nots, and of increasing dehumanization as a consequence of the economic condition we are born into, exacerbated by the rapidisation of technology and the speed of politics.

In Malaysia, fifty years of glorifying this and that epoch and of periods and ruptures must, in any case study of political economy, be triangulated with data on the human and cultural consequences of development — this “developmentalist agenda” must be perceived from a human rights perspective.

How must Malaysians study the decades of racial disintegration, incidences of ethnic violence, nature of authoritarianism, breakdown of virtually all sub-social systems, etched patterns of economic apartheid, schooling and racial discrimination, abuse of the state ideological apparatuses, and finally the steadily rising billion-Ringgit benchmark of corruption this country has gauged in her way to becoming a failed state?

Those above are amongst the variables that need to be taken into consideration when one thinks of a good case study.Let us be more sophisticated when naming names.

  1. #1 by ktteokt on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 10:30 am

    Najibonomics is nothing else but “denials and lies”! Remember how he responded to world recession early this year when world economics was sliding downhill? He refused to accept this fact but maintained that Malaysia is not “hit”. Then later, he dug into the pockets of the people and came up with billions as “stimulus packages”.

    If at all there is no effect of world recession on Malaysia, why the hell he need to have these “stimulus packages”? Anyway, as a Malaysian citizen, I personally did not feel the effects of this “billion ringgit injection”, did any of you ever felt its effects?

  2. #2 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 10:53 am

    Hello, Naji-bo-nomics!

    Is that what it really is? Najib knows **** about economics, hence bo-nomics.

    What is this about Asas Serba taking over all highways for RM50 billion? Another of Bo-nomics way to fleece the public or what? When you have an opaquely devious adminstration, everything looks suspicious. Can’t blame the public perception. BN’s hsitory of deception and corruption dots its decades-long administration.

    Maybe Bo-nomics is like Bo-Derek – 10 for body, nothing else upstairs!

  3. #3 by k1980 on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 11:23 am

    Najibo-nomics? Should be mumbojumbo-nomics with a dose of C4-nomics for recalcitrants such as poor little altan

  4. #4 by Loh on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 11:32 am

    Sorry, off-topic

    By Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on September 28, 2009 5:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (45) | TrackBacks (0)

    ///1. There is much talk today regarding the Internal Security Act. Having released people and having detained people under the ISA, I think I know something about this act and its application.

    2. Firstly one must remember that it is a preventive law, that is it is to be applied before a crime is committed. The law cannot be applied after the crime is committed. For this there are other laws.

    3. Secondly it can be applied only in certain specific cases, as for example when there is a threat to the security of the country.

    4. A possible armed uprising or possibility of civil violence would constitute a threat to the security of the country.

    5. However it had been used in the past to incarcerate political opponents, as when Aziz Ishak was detained.///– TDM

    All citizens love peace and security in the country, and they hope that these could be achieved when the government does its duties. When the government truly practices parliamentary democracy through ballot boxes, those who oppose government policies do not have to create civil violence to change the government. They will only want to get themselves elected, and for that they should be allowed their message to get across to the electorates. Obviously those who register themselves as members of political parties choose the established process to challenge the government with their ideas. It is the duty of the government to ensure that the people learn to vote with their head, rather than their heart.

    The way the government utilised government machinery to achieve political gain, such as the dethroning of the duly elected Perak State government shows that they would use ISA for political purposes.

    ///6. At this point visitors to this blog are likely to say I did the same. I admit I did detain people under the ISA in the 1987 Ops Lalang. But it was not because they were members of the opposition. The police had informed me that there was likely to be racial clashes over the issue of Chinese education and the intention of some UMNO members to hold a million strong demonstration in K.L.///– TDM

    This must be the classic example on how one creates lame excuses. As the President of UMNO, it would be simple enough for him to issue directive to his subordinate not to involve in illegal activities, and the planned organised crime would not materialise. Obviously education is a technical matter, and the issue of Chinese education has nothing to do with UMNO members since they are not forced to take up Chinese education. It is the failure of UMNO politicians to separate technical issues from politics.

    If Mahathir chose to use ISA to prevent UMNO members to hold a million strong demonstration in KL, he should have just nabbed a few of the UMNO leaders and declared it as such. There was no need to detain opposition politicians who only uttered their views on Chinese education. By detaining non-Malays in opposition parties to placate the Malays in UMNO Mahathir demonstrated that he made use of ISA for political purposes.

    ///7. The people detained were not only members of the opposition but included UMNO members. As soon as the threat passed the detainees were all released. The issue was not political opposition to the Government but the threat to national security.///– TDM

    The statement is illuminating! The source of trouble was UMNO Malay leaders. The bulk of those detained were non-Malays. UMNO members were only included when they should be only persons put under detention.

    ///8. I don’t expect this explanation would be accepted by my detractors. But that is normal. Detractors would never admit to being wrong.///– TDM

    One argues with the head, not the heart.

    ///9. On the ISA, it seems odd that some who were detained under the ISA supports this preventive laws. I am sure they don’t support abuses of the law though.///– TDM

    It would be odd that this statement is true per se. The persons who should have been detained by ISA would not have been released. Those who had been released support it because of his personal choice, probably to attain political aims.

    ///9. When the so-called war on terror was launched by Bush and Blair, they did not hesistate to detain so-called suspects without even being sanctioned by any law. They were so critical about our ISA before but not only did they detain thousands of the so-called suspects, they actually tortured the detainees when they felt threats to their security. I will not talk about their invading Iraq and Afghanistan and the killings of thousands of innocent people.///– TDM

    Only Hisabmuddin thought that proven terrorist Top should be rehabilitated, perhaps at his home.

    The true leaders of any country did not have to await any law to be passed before they take action to protect their country. The people detained were not politicians and outright terrorist suspects who might have been associated with proven criminals. Nobody would question the detention of terrorist suspects. But when the government detain people who have uttered views which are not welcomed, then ISA was clearly meant to silence the persons concerned.

    The sedition act is another weapon used by the government to fool the people by preventing them from discussing issues in depth. That deprives the people of their right to assess for themselves the merits and the lack thereof on any policy decision of the government.

    ///10. The so-called protagonists of human rights were clearly critical when others resort to preventive detention. When they felt threatened they not only detain people but they did this without any law which provides for such act.///– TDM

    Those protagonists did not want to have their countries suffer another bombing attack like 911. They should not wait for a law to pass for taking actions to prevent it. Others took preventive detention not to avoid bombs, but to prevent the opponents sitting in their chairs.

    ///11. Just because our critics are hypocrites does not mean that we should retain the ISA. But there is a need for preventive detention in Malaysia simply because without this threat racist extremists would undermine the stability of this country. That extreme racialism can lead to violence is not something we can take lightly. We must value our stability because it has made it possible for this country to develop much faster than other countries.///– TDM

    It is because the Malaysian government implement policies based on race and people classified by race either gain unfair advantages or suffer the discriminations. Grumbling against unequal treatment then becomes the crime and they are then stigmatised as racial extremists for voicing their sufferings. Remember the Suqiu group who wanted only the government to promise to lessen government-sponsored discrimination; after election, they were termed racial extremists.

    Had the policies of the government transcended racial line, the people who agree or disapprove of the policy will not be polarised, by race. UMNO leaders perpetrate racial policies not for stability; in fact they risk instability through racial policies so that the leaders could continue with corrupt practice with impunity. ISA is another protective coat for corruption in Malaysia.

    ///12. Can the ISA be replaced by a court hearing. In Malaysia courts take a long time to pass judgement; months or even years. By then the violence would have taken place, i.e. the court action would have failed to achieve the prevention that the law is meant for.///– TDM

    The person who has made Malaysian court a subsidiary of the executive now curses them for inefficiency. The person suspected of causing security threat should be charged in court, to prove that there exists a prima facie case against him. A person was held in detention while waiting for his court appeal, for sodomy charge, not because he could cause violence but because he might influence witnesses. How kind can a person be when he chooses to put a suspect under ISA, rather than have the suspect put under detention while awaiting the court process?

    ///13. Still there is need to review the ISA. I don’t think it should be done away with but there must be a clear cut provision as to when it could be used. We cannot have people being detained for three days and then released because the detention was for the detainee’s safety.///– TDM

    It should just be done away when it clearly demonstrated that it was abused creatively.

    ///14. Perhaps the period should be shortened to one year and the six monthly review be carried out by properly qualified individuals who have the country’s interest heart besides a desire to maintain human rights.///– TDM

    Malaysian leaders have the knack of not doing the right thing, but trying everything else hoping to come to the desired results. Najib just announced the establishment of the multi-racial hostel to help create unity when the right thing was to remove NEP, and to review article 153 of the constitution.

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 11:54 am

    How about “Najibombics”?

    He’s barely 100 days into his administration and they are already wanting to praise him, carry his “huevos”?

    What has been achieved thus far? Are the measures working or will they bomb out?

    Harvard cases comprises both successful and failures. Most will illustrate the things that were done and decisions made leading to the successes or failures. Certainly they all involve dissecting a very wide variety of issues, especially controversial and “novel” ones. They generally provoke thought, discussion, critique and deep analyses and very often have no fixed outcomes as the world is dynamic. They merely illustrate how the various actors acted, taking into consideration the context of the situation leading to the various outcomes and consequences.

    So a case study may suggest and illustrate bad decisions and failures and how NOT to act in a particular context and situation. But if some Malaysians are involved in the write-up, the case’s focus will be very predictable.

    Finally, Najibi should not take any credit, if any, from Apanamanomics and Badawism.

  6. #6 by Loh on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 12:48 pm

    ///Back to “Najibo-nomics”.

    I do not think it is necessary to give birth to this name. I think there is, in the words of a research or case-study strategy, those who proposed that the name must triangulate the data of Malaysia’s claim to economic invulnerability.///– Azly Rahman

    The fact that Harvard takes Najibomohmics as a case study did not mean that it was a success example to be followed. It might well be a case of what not to practise.

    One wonders what are included in the Bomoh-mics. Would the RM 500 million for servicing the submarine included? Obviously there are multiplying effects with that amount of money; it would certainly be in UK where the service provider now resides, if not in Malaysia.

  7. #7 by taiking on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 1:08 pm

    When the country’s economy failed, which it would under umno, we can say for sure that it was because of umnomics. Could the collapse of the stadium roof be due to the forces of veluism and malaysians’ increased interest in smut be blamed on soilekism? Get Prof Danny Quah of LSE to frame a tutorial question or two on umnomics and immediately we can claim great foreign interest in the matter of umnomics.

    All these umno-mumbo-jumbo-ism / onomics make me sick. But that is typically umno. Ever ready to proclaim success prematurely. Look at macc. It was said to be a success before it began work. Look at our msc. It was said to be gift to the world when it was launched. Such statement can only mean that (yes) msc was a wonderful success. Look at our angkasawan and the cry of success. (Huh!?! Wot success? Do you know?). Look at our igp declaration two years ago to make all criminals shake and shiver with fear at the sight of police. A bold statement that he would be successful. That is umno punya style. “I am successful because I said so.” That is umno.

  8. #8 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 1:34 pm

    I see Najib in an article at The Malaysian Insider says we need more STIs. Malaysia’s problem isn’t a shortage of skilled workers, it’s a surplus of incompetent leaders.

    I don’t think I need an STI. I think I need to get awfully, humiliatingly wasted on cheap alcohol and lie crying in a pool of my own vomit, preferably in a public place. I’ve found it cathartic in the past during times of extreme frustration. It’s a bit like the self-immolation of Vietnamese monks, only one can recover from it after a week or so.

    Fortunately for my wife and children, frustration seems to become easier to bear with increasing age. I quite look forward to Alzheimer’s now. Perhaps when I’m leaking into my incontinence pad, drooling uncontrollably and unable to recognise my kids’ faces, all this will make sense. How happy I will be then!

  9. #9 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 3:07 pm


  10. #10 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 4:08 pm

    ” KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — The government will spend an additional RM1 billion per month till the end of 2010 in a bid to bolster the country’s economy, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.” Malaysia Insider

    This is Najibjab Ekonomi 10001.

    Are the folks in Bagan Pinang jumping for joy?

  11. #11 by johnnypok on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 4:20 pm

    “C4nomics” will make a more interesting subject

    “Peraknomics”, “Cowheadnomics”, “NEPnomics” “APnomics”, “Toyolnomics”, etc, should all be taught in school.

  12. #12 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 5:02 pm

    Not to be outdone, Muhyiddin has joined in the race for his name to be included in the No-mics.

    From Malaysian Insider: “Muhyiddin: Malaysia needs new economic model i.e. The principles were broad-based growth, broad-based economic empowerment and bottom-up growth…”

    Ha, ha….does Muhyiddin even understand all these words? That’s Muh-yi-no-mics 101. Who are his advisers? There is enuf theory from UMNO to last ten lifetimes. So fat all their ‘Nomics’ have resulted in dismal failures.

    It’s time to begin some real honest-no-mics to begin with. All ‘no-mics’ begin with honest-nomics. Naji-no-mics, Muh-yi-no-mics, Mad-hat- no-mics are all screw-no-mics without honest-no-mics. Simple and sensible?

    So, Malaysia, let’s start with honest-no-mics and screw all the politico-no-mics!

  13. #13 by taiking on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 6:14 pm

    More gobermen spending, huh? If so then can the umno gobermen claim that our economy is getting into shape and can the paper rain praises upon najib and his “bold economic measures”?

    But seriously, are we looking at najibonomics or rosmahonomics? You see. Najibonomics could be rosmahonomics in disguise. And I dont know what toyonomics would be like really. Perhaps it would have a kind of indononomics flavour. And the ultimate of course is Mahatironomics. Something I would not like to again ever. And oddly, although it was not too long ago, I dont seem to recall anything much about sleepyonomics. Maybe that is not a bad thing. Yeah. Maybe.

  14. #14 by monsterball on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 8:52 pm

    Kopitiam fellas do not know how to be sophisticated like Azly.
    If he writes a book with that kind of language….only high class few will many may need a dictionary too.
    Prior to Mahathir’s time..Malaysians consented to let UMNO bring Malays up…..and kopitiam fellas attitudes are minding their own business. ..a promise is a promise.
    Times up…Mahathir extended it for another 22 years and on going..and that’s where kopitiam fella started to get serious….giving UMNO less and lesser votes.
    Mahathir knew UMNO will be voted out,…if he stayed as PM……..for another election.
    Smartly…he stepped down.
    Azly should know all these….as there is a limit to everything.
    With or without Anwar….UMNO will be voted out in 13th GE.
    Kopitiam fellas make up.. a sizable amount of voters…to be reckoned with …by any party.
    Clerical staffs patronize kopitiams too..and most can agree with each other.
    Bottom line…no need to be high class or a snob.
    People’s Power is what PR is relying upon to vote them in.
    All smart Alexes can go and vote for BN.
    They think too much and can be unreliable voters.
    Kopitiam fellas will curse and complain…let UMNO know…loud and clear….who we are….with no fear.
    That must be the attitudes and mentalities all voters…..need to adopt….be straight forward…say clearly who you wish to support…..and leave all smart intellectuals..cracks their heads….to weigh all the pros and quote history….when what matters most now…is to make up your mind….and stop advertising yourself…how smart you are..with your political science degree…to enhance your ability as a recognized lawyer too.

    All of them should be politicians and kopitiam fellas will be their masters..and I say ….stop being too smart and let us know..who you are voting for….in 13th GE.

  15. #15 by Hugos on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 10:16 pm

    is that your best shot wrathofgrapes. no grapeface-nomics??

  16. #16 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 - 10:38 pm

    They think too much
    I hate that too.
    Bloody thinkers!
    What have they ever done for us, eh?

  17. #17 by johnnypok on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 1:33 am

    Why Toon Mahal Teh “The Great” is not getting the kind of attention for his past contributions? I think God must be crazy, or Harvard is trying to create a joke.

  18. #18 by taiking on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 9:10 am


    Didnt najib abolish FIC requirement sometime ago for acquisition of properties. This morning I receive an email enclosing EPU Guidelines for acquisition of properties (immovables and companies).

    Havent gone through the details but it is likely to have something to do with imposing 30% umnoputras quota on substantial acquisition again. Maybe Jeffrey can elaborate.

    It is now clear that najib is a deceiver. He always takes back wot he gives unless wot he gave is of no use to him already.

  19. #19 by ktteokt on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 11:18 pm

    Given the choice, Najis would even declare his mother to be “not a woman”! Denial seems to be the name of the game today!

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