The State in Myanmar

January 2009 9781850659099 540pp


The State in Myanmar is a totally revised and expanded and updated version of The State in Burma (1987), with additional chapters covering the last twenty years of Myanmar’s political history. It attempts to explain the country’s current politics in the light of the historical evolution of state-society relations in Myanmar since the pre-colonial kings, through the colonial era to the current, and third, post-colonial regime in this strategically important and little studied South East Asian nation. The book explains the dramatic and unpredicted collapse of the previous socialist regime and the attempts by new and old political forces to wrest control of the state from a revitalised and increasingly confident military government. Myanmar’s state builders have applied varying ideas in their attempts to fashion a stable political order in an often fractious and far from unified nation and The State in Myanmar places those experiences in comparative perspective.


‘[…] a well researched, masterly presentation of political, economic and social developments in Burma. […]  will no doubt become a standard reference work.’ — The Round Table

‘All with an interest in Myanmar should welcome the publication of Robert Taylor’s revised and updated book. It combines thoughtful analysis with incisive insights into a country that too often is discussed in one-dimensional terms.’ — Milton Osborne, Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University, author of, inter alia, The Mekong and Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness

The State in Myanmar by Robert H. Taylor, a substantive addition to his 1987 version of The State in Burma, continues the story of the evolution and development of the modern Burmese state to 2008. It is clearly one of the best books (if not the best) published in the English language on the modern state in Myanmar, particularly in terms of evidence, conceptualization, methodology, analysis, and perspective. As such, it has few, if any, equals. In large part, it is because the author is an unassuming and sensitive scholar of the country’s modern institutions for nearly half a century, grounded by frequent and long-term stays in the country that have provided first-hand and unique access to data, individuals, and events. In the latter sense too, the author has few equals. Thus, both his professional and personal experiences have given him the special wherewithal for producing such a work. For scholars and other educated readers genuinely interested in, and concerned about the affairs and people of Myanmar, this book is required reading.’ —Michael Aung-Thwin, Professor of Asian Studies, University of Hawai’i at Manoa and author of, inter alia, The Mists of Ramanna: the Legend that was Lower Burma.

‘Although, or perhaps because, it was written by a political scientist, The State in Burma is the most analytically incisive and original history of modern Burma ever produced, and one of the most useful works of its kind for any Southeast Asian Country. Taylor has integrated a mass of social, political, and administrative material—most of it based on primary research—into a well-structured theoretical argument that makes the book, despite its length and intricacy, both cogent and eminently readable’. Professor Victor B. Lieberman, University of Michigan, Journal of Asian Studies

‘In this enlightening and detailed study of Burma, Taylor’s research and sheer hard work goes a long way in helping to explain the workings of the modern state. The in-depth historical approach he has taken to his subject leaves no stone unturned…’ — Adrian Webber, Mainichi Daily News

‘Taylor has produced a valuable study which should assist the student of Burma in general and those seeking to understand the eccentric form of the contemporary state’ — Peter Lowe, Manchester University, Times Higher Education Supplement


Robert H. Taylor was Pro-Director and Professor of Politics at SOAS and later Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University. His publications include four monographs on Myanmar and seven edited or co-edited volumes.

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