The Business of Transition: Law Reform, Development and Economics in Myanmar.

AuthorHarding, Andrew
PositionBook review

The Business of Transition: Law Reform, Development and Economics in Myanmar. Edited by Melissa Crouch. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Hardcover: 288pp.

Although Myanmar scholarship languished for many years due to lack of either interest or opportunity, since the opening of Myanmar in 2011 both have burgeoned as scholars from many disciplines have become keen to uncover the transformations taking place and assess the prospects for further change. In this edited volume, the contributors draw on their considerable experience of Myanmar, often stretching back to the period of absolutist military rule.

This collection is in fact the third in a series of books on Myanmar edited by Melissa Crouch, a Myanmar legal scholar at the University of New South Wales. (1) It brings together scholars from several disciplines: Southeast Asian area studies; politics and public policy; development studies; law; business studies; geography; economics; sociology; and international relations. A feature of the new Myanmar scholarship has indeed been its pleasing interdisciplinarity, highly appropriate in a situation where too narrow a disciplinary perspective may well miss much of what is worthy of study and explanatory of context. The word "business" in the title is presumably deliberately ambiguous, as the book deals both with the instrumentality of bringing about transition (aid, sanctions, civil society) and with the role of business itself in this transition: indeed all of the chapters are concerned directly with business in one form or another (social enterprise, labour standards, microfinance, special economic zones, extractive industries, local businesses). Although the focus is on "the way in which law creates new markets, law embodies hopes of social engineering and law reform is motivated by the goal of economic gain" (p. 1), the law itself is only part of the concern of most of the chapters. That is probably as it should be, because of the need to look at law reform/rule of law issues from the vantage point of particular issues or sectors. Essentially, therefore, this book is more about business than it is about law. It will be of interest not just to those who are concerned with Myanmar's progress, but also those who are concerned with development elsewhere in the world. For better or for worse, Myanmar is the clear current example of global partnership for development. The editor invites us to "think carefully and critically about...

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