International Journal of Cultural Policy 2016.
Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10286632.2016.1184656
From cultural enforcer to networker: the Cultural Surveillance Centre (Ministry of Culture)
The CSC aims to extend the legislative capacity of ‘the people’ to rule themselves through the principle of the general will – which can only ever be understood as a decision about what is the right way to live together. It is evident that to the iterative Legislator (any usurping governmental agency tasked with constituting the people-body), an enabling capacity for making that decision means engagement in the bio-politics of Thainess, or varied governmental intervention. Thainess works to authorise legislation without an electoral democratic mandate, for it is the enabling condition of the assumed social contract between the Thai state and its subjects, at least among conservatives. Here then we find at its rawest the mentality of many in the moral reform agencies of the Thai state. Its logic in the cultural realm is mirrored in the political realm. In the absence of a capacity to form a general will, in the presence of fractious politics of interest and ideology, limited forms of democracy are viewed as necessary so that the people can be led towards the general will. If one were seeking to find the general tenor of politics informing the justification for suspending Thailand’s electoral democracy, it may be found in embryonic form in the CSC and other pedagogical agencies of state and society. Its surveillance activities form one channel through which a general will may appear and citizens ‘forced’ to be free. That Thailand has, since 1932, never succeeded in embedding any constitutional form (in 2015 and 2016 it deliberated its 20th constitution) means that the figure of the iterative legislator (military coup, government agency, monarchy, etc.) is constant in the modern period.