This panel is dedicated to the late Dr John Lawrence Scott Girling who passed away in late September 2015 and left a considerably large body of work on the political and social change of both developed and developing countries in terms of theoretical debates and empirical research. Below is a brief of his academic life and legacy.
While working with the British Foreign Office, John was dispatched to work with the now defunct South East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO) as the British representative in Bangkok. It was the place where he published his first book, in 1963, on Thailand: A Political, Social and Economic Analysis under the nom de plume of ‘D. Insor’ (literally meaning ‘pencil’) and became one of the experts on Thailand. In 1966, after joining the Department of International Relations, Australian National University, John published an extensive body of work on foreign policies and security issues in Southeast Asian countries, their relationship with the superpowers during the ‘Cold War’ era, the People’s War, ASEAN, and Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific. In 1981, he published his landmark work on Thailand: Society and Politics which is still, according to a high-profile Thai academic, ‘one of the best books about Thailand.’
From the mid-1980s, John’s academic interests broadened to include development theories and debates on the ‘grand theories’ of capital and power with application to developing countries, especially Thailand. After his retirement in Toulouse, France, in early 1990s, his contributions were focused on theoretical debates on democracy, capitalism and corruption, social movements, political and social change.
While determining to assist those underprivileged and unfortunate, John strongly opposed the dogmatism of any development theories and ideas by having them counter-balanced with empirical research in a synthesized and even-handed manner. Without the evenhandedness of such balance, he argued, each hostile camp would ‘seek unprofitably to destroy the other’ while diverting ‘attention from the pressing problem of the relationship between theory and content.’
As Thailand’s democracy is at a crossroads, contributions on any aspects of John Girling’s work and life are most welcome, including (but not limited to) the following themes:
Abstract of 300 words are expected by Friday 25 November 2016.
Contact: Dr Rapin Quinn, Honorary Fellow of the Australian Catholic University via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org