Professor Thompson builds on Barrington Moore's insight that there are different "paths to the modern" world. Thompson's manuscript explores alternatives to the familiar South Korean-and Taiwan-based model of "late democratization." According to that model, political pluralism follows a formative period of economic growth during which labor is demobilized and big business, religious leaders, and professionals depend upon and are co-opted by the state.
Thompson argues that even when these preconditions are in place, democratization need not follow. Singapore is an illuminating case in point. The autocratic growth model pays insufficient attention to politics, including the sometimes crucial role of student activists in challenging developmental authoritarianism and triggering a democratic transition, as in Indonesia. As political actors, students (rather than a progressive bourgeoisie) may fill the oppositional vacuum created by the preconditions that characterized predemocratic South Korean and Taiwan.
In his critique of Northeast Asian-style, post-authoritarian "late democratization" and its emphasis on economic growth as the driver of political change, Professor Thompson uses evidence drawn from paired comparisons of Vietnam with China, Hong Kong with Singapore, and between South Korea and Taiwan on the one hand and other major Southeast Asian cases on the other.
Professor Thompson was a Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Distinguished Fellow on Southeast Asia in 2008-09.