Singapore has been one of Southeast Asia’s great success stories. Only a few decades ago, the country had very little money or resources and had constructed one of the top worldwide cities today. Their success is not comparable to China’s or Hong Kong’s. The distinctions are striking. Economic models have sparked a divided debate around the world. Some people support capitalism, while others support socialism. There does not appear to be a third option to “the market” or “the plan.” Singapore, on the other hand, provides confirmation that a third model does exist. It is a city where socialism and capitalism have coexisted, with economic development as a result. When the housing industry is not managed directly by the government, a substantial number of individuals are deprived of homes. By recognizing and responding to the needs of the impoverished in society, the nation’s housing initiative has overcome various barriers to emancipatory development. It provides an alternative to capitalistic countries’ predatory mortgage frameworks, which trap the majority of individuals in a never-ending cycle of debt. This model depicts the world as it is today under capitalism since when the sector is not managed directly by the government, a substantial number of people are denied housing. By recognizing and responding to the needs of the impoverished in society, the nation’s housing initiative has overcome various barriers to emancipatory development. A country can thrive in its planning of cities despite its capitalistic or socialist orientation like the case of Singapore.
Singapore, a British colony since 1819, gained independence in 1965, became part of Federation of Malaysia in 1963, before becoming a self-governing state in 1959. Every election since 1959, People’s Action Party, was chosen (Shatkin, 2014). In the 1960s when politics were hot, Singapore focused on matters like housing and availing jobs, pursuing an export-oriented economic strategy based on luring foreign investment. Today, Singapore is home to over 5,000 foreign enterprises, with several global corporations establishing regional operations and manufacturing facilities on the island. With over four million inhabitants and approximately 697 square kilometers of land, Singapore has a big population. In 2004, three and a half million inhabitants together with 0.7 million migrants made up the population of 4.2 million. In 2004, it had a Gross Domestic Product of S$181 billion, or US$109 billion. In 2002, Singapore’s per capita GNI was assessed at US dollars 29,610 by the World Development Report 2004, putting it 19th on the list of PPP GNI per capita (Shatkin, 2014). Although Singapore is not commonly thought of as a welfare system state, a massive housing welfare program has redefined component of its system of welfare. The vast system of housing has been beneficial in increasing rates of homeownership and savings, as well as helping to long-term development of the economy in general and property market growth in particular. Few people would disagree that Singapore’s housing structural reforms are tremendously successful.
Singapore’s economic progress over the last four decades has propelled the country from third to first world status, over 90% of the population owning a home. According to Heo (2012), the Singapore housing model addresses real estate and bank profiteering’s capitalistic exploitation of the poor. Essentially, the housing model reduces the citizens’ exposure to avoidable sources of suffering. Alternatively, because the housing model benefits the majority of citizens, it represents a direct reversal of the disparities that exist under capitalism. As a critique of capitalism, social justice is mirrored in Singapore’s housing project, which provides affordable housing to the needy. In essence, the endeavor is not motivated by a goal to maximize profits. Olin also alluded to the challenge that capitalistic commercialization poses to important widely held ideals. The Singapore housing model demonstrates the significance of housing in fostering family and childcare ideals.
Housing was always more than just a type of shelter all through history, but since capitalist market forces controlled resource allocation and further reorganized the social order, there have been substantial changes in the social consequences of housing. As the marketplace became the center of all social activity, people began to recognize that housing might be a successful commodity in a capitalistic system. As a result, it is frequently argued that housing is a private good in the sense that its use is rival and non – rival, and the proportion of utility that persons derive from home consumption varies greatly. Nonetheless, Heo (2012) posits that as compared to pure private products, housing has numerous distinguishing characteristics, which even laissez-faire economists believe justify state intervention in the housing market. These features are critical for those attempting to rationalize the government’s active participation in the housing industry. This is why examining housing features is the first move toward comprehending differences in housing systems and practices in capitalist democracies. Home buying necessitates a substantial lump sum payment that most minimum wage workers or self-employed households cannot afford without financial support (Spencer and Valassopoulos, 2020). The capital-intensive feature of housing needs the formation of private or state financial institutions that can give development loans to house builders to fund construction projects, or mortgages to customers to spread payment over a lengthy period of time.
The concept of utopia has been utilized in a variety of ways since Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) was published 500 years ago. The term has acquired both negative and positive connotations (Scott, Bell, Gilmore, Gosling, Moore and Spear, 2016). It is an act of disrespect when it’s used adversely; it is a way of dismissing an idea as unachievable, unworkable, and woefully idealistic. This disparaging use of the term is based on the word utopia’s original Latin meaning of ‘nowhere. It considers utopia to be an unachievable dream, anything or something that doesn’t exist. The emergence of neoliberal consensus politics, which followed the loss of utopian initiatives around the world in the postwar period, emphasized this point of view. The growing body of scholarship on welfare states has aided the researcher’s understanding of the contrasts and similarities among the major social policies implemented in welfare states around the world. Despite these accomplishments, researchers still have significant scholarly gaps in their understanding of the welfare state’s fundamental policy pillars. To begin with, various comparative studies have identified a geographical boundary that is mostly confined to the industrialised Western welfare states. The Singaporean housing model is a symbiotic strategy that tries to harness the state’s authority in order to enhance societal power. Notably, the project’s ultimate purpose is to give citizens more control over their own fates. Adaptations in the real estate market have a long-term positive impact on social power (Panayotakis, 2021). The Singapore housing project cuts off choices for capitalists, resulting in a stronger economic framework for all citizens, by stimulating beneficial cooperation across classes. As a result, predatory economic actions are reduced. Several roadblocks have been erected in the way of the Singapore housing project. The spread of capitalism ideology and libertarian principles in Singapore’s market system poses a danger to the long-term viability of a socially responsive collaboration between the classes and the government. Increased political calls for pure democracy at the political level may jeopardize the state’s ability to satisfy whatever needs the poor people have.
Focusing on social housing policies reveals the importance of a symbiotic interaction between the government and the economy. As more foreign investors join in the state’s businesses, the rise of the real estate industry demonstrates a disruptive strategy. The disparities in the quality of the homes created by the state are manifestations of interstitial policies. Houses with superior amenities are available to the wealthy. Such disparities in the quality of facilities jeopardize the long-term viability of class relations. Considering the future’s unpredictability, Wright (2010) asserts that there are two reasons why it’s critical to have as clear a picture as possible of the spectrum of feasible alternatives to the society we live in, alternatives that, if implemented, might have a fair chance of being sustainable. First, gaining such understandings now increases the likelihood that social forces dedicated to emancipatory social change would be able to design practical tactics to execute the contrast if historical conditions widen the limits of attainable potential in the future. If viable alternatives are properly thought out and comprehended, they are more likely to become attainable alternatives.
Capitalism naturally generates major deficits in the creation of public goods for well-understood causes, which are accepted by both proponents and detractors of the system. Public goods are a broad category of items that meet two criteria: it is difficult to restrict anyone from enjoying them when they are produced, and one person’s use does not affect the consumption of another (Wright 2010). Capitalist markets are bad at delivering public goods because it’s difficult to make money when you can’t easily prohibit people from buying what you’ve made. Furthermore, because many public goods are crucial for both prosperity and economic Productivity, relying on markets to create them is unsustainable. Critical scholars have proposed a wide range of ideas, interpretations, and views in recent years. In the last decade, many Marxists came up with ideas on the issue of capitalism and how viable their opposition was bound to stand.
Additionally, one might be forgiven for assuming that Wright and Holloway’s points of view are incompatible (Monticelli 2018). Despite this, it is likely to establish a fair ground. All the Marxists recognize how difficult it is to use Marx’s theory of the “proletariat” as stated in contemporary liberation ideologies. To put it another way, they both emphasize how problematic it is to pinpoint the radical subject. Wright (2010) believes this idea necessitates bringing individuals collectively from a more diversified range of operational positions in society. As a system for regulating economic activity, capitalism has a diametrically opposed relationship to community as a means of organizing social collaboration. On the one hand, capitalism requires at least rudimentary forms of community, as market exchanges and treaties require some degree of mutual duty. This is what Emile Durkheim called the “non-contractual basis of contract.” Markets, according to Polanyi, would destroy society unless they are restrained by strong communal institutions. Capitalism, on the other hand, weakens community (Monticelli 2018). Two factors are particularly significant here: first, how markets encourage impulses that are contradictory to community, and second, how capitalism creates inequities that erode broad social cohesion.
In the terrains of transformation, the situation is different in Singapore’s Housing Model. According to mainstream economic theory, the price of goods in a competitive market roughly reflects their production costs. This is considered efficient since it indicates that prices are providing the correct signals to producers and investors (Wright 2010). If the prices are significantly higher than the costs of manufacturing, this means that venture capitalists in those products will profit more, signaling manufacturers to increase production; if the prices are substantially lower than the costs of production, this implies that people will lose money, signaling producers to invest and start producing less. However, in the Singapore model, consumers are supposed to benefit because the essence of this entire project is not profit but empowering citizens to feel part of economic growth. Unlike other capitalistic economies where profits form the basis for investment, Singapore’s model is enviable and goes against the Standard Economic Theory.
The situation is promising in Singapore because the lack of jobless safety nets is unsurprising given the lengthy history of full employment. Instead, government strategy has centered on reducing inequality in income by disseminating advantages of growth via ad hoc measures, which do not happen to decrease incentive to labor hard and have savings. According to Phang (2007), the national budget has been characterized as favoring big, long-term structural surpluses, rental rebates, value (satisfaction), top-ups to CPF accounts and subsidies, scholarships, and bursaries made to each student’s account through an Edusave Scheme have all been broadcast in the Minister of Finance’s yearly budget speech from 1994. It is interesting how the government through its housing initiative has managed to contain the needs of each Singaporean. A perfect example is that all desperate Singaporeans, especially the unemployed, are assisted through a variety of state and non-government financial support initiatives that target giving short-lived respite without developing a culture of dependency.
The government nearly entirely depends on the CPF plan, a mandated scheme for savings to sponsor a variety of welfare-related services (Phang, 2007). The phrase “actual utopias” is used by Erik Olin Wright to characterize emancipatory techniques that are established within capitalism but seek to transcend it. In the famous book “Envisioning Real Utopias”, Wright (2010) uses the analogy of an ecological system to explain capitalism and debates three non-mutually incompatible “emancipatory” changes to overcome capitalism. They are commonly known as Ruptural, Symbiotic, and Interstitial strategies (Monticelli 2018). Interstitial actions and progressions emerge as places within and outside of the ancient system, foreshadowing a post–capitalist system. While Wright acknowledges that a variety of interstitial activities – ecological communities, worker-owned coops and fair trading networks – might participate in encouraging social transformation, he is more skeptical in the area of appraising capacity for overturning a capitalist system. According to Wright (2018), if they ever expanded to the extent of threatening capitalism’s dominance, they would be crushed.
In the Singaporean housing case, just like the rest around the world, liquidity of any asset determines its desirability to a considerable extent. A market’s efficiency is determined by the ease of transaction. As a result, initiatives promoting possession of sponsored improved HDB flats have to be supplemented by laws addressing the ancillary market for that property. Nevertheless, given that general housing crisis at the time, there was early caution that HDB homes should never form a platform for conjecture by enabling price concessions to be exploited on any secondary market. According to Wright (2005), within the Marxist school, the concept of class has more interpretive ambitions than in any other approach to social theory, putting greater demands on its theoretical underpinnings. This hypothesis tried to explain a myriad of issues within a coherent model, including the paradigm shifting course of social transformation as well as social unrest occurring at particular points in time, the macro-level organizational form of the state as well as segments and sub individual subjective beliefs, high profile revolutions and go-slows. This grandiose claim of explanatory significance for the notion of class was conveyed in phrases like the leadership of the modern case is merely a council of capitalists.
There are several motives why extending the idea of class as a result of misuse and dominance provides conceptual kickbacks beyond Marxist class analysis’s special normative objective. Some of them include: firstly, creating a link between production and exchange. The Marxist theory of class analysis emphasizes the close relationship between the organization of interpersonal interaction within exchange and production. This is a practical, not a definitional point: the social interactions that structure individuals’ rights and abilities in regard to productive resources influence their placement both within trade relationships and within the process of production itself in a systematic manner. Secondly, the question of conflict also counts as an essential input in the school of Marxism (Wright 2005). Indeed, one of the most common ways to describe Marxism in sociology textbooks is as a type of “conflict theory.” However, this definition isn’t nearly accurate enough, because conflict is a significant characteristic of Weberian notions of class as well. The Marxist analysis of class relations in these terms is distinguished not only by its emphasis on class conflict, but also by its understanding of conflict as being caused by intrinsic qualities of those relations rather than by contingent variables. Exploitation is a system of intertwined antagonistic interests in which exploiters’ ability to harm the exploited is contingent on their ability to advance their own goals.
The third aspect is power, which defines operational capability. The assertion that class relations create deeply adversarial interests, but also that they help individuals in subordinate class locations sources of control with which to strive for their interests, is at the heart of the Marxist construction of class analysis. Because exploitation is based on the extraction of labor effort, and because people constantly retain some control for their own effort, they are always confronted with the ability to fight exploitation (Wright and Hahnel, 2014). This is an important source of power. It is evident in the elaborate counter-strategies that exploiting classes are forced to employ through the development of supervision, surveillance, monitoring, and punishment devices. Fourthly, Coercion and consent also play a pivotal role in the debate on capitalistic and social economy.
The Singaporean Housing Model proves to be an effective model that does not require denial of basic rights and health determinants. It is a model which stands out as having survived capitalism and socialist orientation. What could be called an endogenous theory of consent formation can be found in Marxist class analysis. The main idea is that the extraction of labor effort in exploitative systems is costly for manipulating classes due to people’s natural potential to fight their own oppression. Purely \coercively backed systems of exploitation will often tend to be suboptimal since under many scenarios it is too easy for employees to withhold diligent execution of labor effort. As a result, exploiting classes are more likely to look for ways to cut costs. One of the ways of decreasing the overhead costs of extracting labor effort is to do things that elicit the active agreement of the exploited.
Shatkin, G., 2014. Reinterpreting the Meaning of the ‘S ingapore Model’: State Capitalism and Urban Planning. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(1), pp.116-137.
Heo, Y.C., 2012. A comparative study of housing in Korea and Singapore (Doctoral dissertation, University of York).
Wright, E.O., 2010. Envisioning real utopias. Verso.
Phang, S.Y., 2007. The Singapore model of housing and the welfare state. http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soe_research/596
Monticelli, L., 2018. Embodying alternatives to capitalism in the 21st century. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 16(2), pp.501-517.
Wright, E.O. ed., 2005. Approaches to class analysis. Cambridge University Press.
Scott, D., Bell, E., Gilmore, J., Gosling, H., Moore, J.M. and Spear, F., 2016. Emancipatory Politics and Praxis: An anthology of essays written for the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control, 2013–16. EG Press.
Wright, E.O. and Hahnel, R., 2014. Alternatives to capitalism. New York: New Left Project.
Panayotakis, C., 2021. Beyond the Capitalist Workplace: How the Production of Surplus across the Economy Keeps Producers Divided. Review of Radical Political Economics, 53(1), pp.77-94.
Spencer, R. and Valassopoulos, A., 2020. Postcolonial Locations: New Issues and Directions in Postcolonial Studies. Routledge.