How to Reform a Traditional Buddhist Monarchy: The Political Achievements of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan (1972-2006)

Mathou, Thierry

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Bhutan is one of the least developed countries in the world. Yet it has become not only a living conservatory of the Buddhist culture, but also a laboratory for political reform in a traditional society. This is unique in the world and most significant in the Himalayan region where local polities, when confronted to major challenges as experienced in Sikkim in the 1970s and as currently seen in Nepal in a totally different context, have never succeeded in modernising themselves without disruptive consequences both for the society and the political structures. Contrary to Huntington's general predicaments that "the struggle between a pro-status quo traditional elite and a pro-change modernising elite is likely to be fatal to any monarchical system lacking the western European political-cultural background" (Huntington, 1968, also see Rose, 1977), the process of political modernization has not been fatal to the monarchical system in Bhutan. On the contrary, the monarch has been the main agent of modernization as demonstrated during the reign of the Fourth King. His abdication has even enhanced the legitimacy of his dynasty whose founder had been elected more than a century ago. Indeed, reform in Bhutan has not followed usual patterns generally observed in other parts of the world. The Fourth King's main historical legacy might not be only the changes he allowed in his country, but also his willingness to promote genuine Bhutanese ways and means towards modernization. The democratisation process has been carefully thought and prepared throughout his reign. Although Bhutan can still be seen as a conservative polity according to western standards, the present paper intends to demonstrate that the reign of Fourth King of Bhutan was a decisive though progressive march towards reform both from social, political, and diplomatic points of view.

Document type: Book
Date: 2008
Version: Secondary publication
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2009 10:58
ISBN: 99936-14-45-9
Faculties / Institutes: Research Organisations / Academies > Centre for Bhutan Studies
DDC-classification: Political science
Controlled Keywords: Jigme Singye Wangchuck <Bhutan, König>, Reform, Monarchie
Uncontrolled Keywords: Politische Reform , Traditionelle Monarchie, Jigme Singye Wangchuck <Bhutan, King> , Political Reform , Traditional Monarchy
Subject (classification): Politics
Countries/Regions: Bhutan
Additional Information: Erstveröffentlichung unter: