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Abstract

Developmental idealism (DI) provides a robust framework for conceptualizing the psychosocial effects of development theory in everyday life. DI implies that several facets of modern development originate from Western thought, and post-developmentalist criticize these frameworks because they are not suitable for developing countries in the non-Western world. Only few countries have transcended the boundary between ‘developing’ and ‘developed;’ the most prominent of the few known as the East Asian Miracles (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan). Previous research attributes their success to an East Asian Model of development, which contradicts some of the fundamental aspects of Western modernity, such as individualism and pluralistic democracy. While previous studies have examined DI models in China and India, this study focuses on Singapore, which has a historical association with both ‘Western-style capitalism' and ‘Asian political characteristics.’ This study examines how DI interacts with the East Asian Model of development through conducting 17 semi-structured interviews with Singaporean nationals and foreign residents in Singapore. I find that ordinary individuals hold both Western modernity and Asian values salient in their conceptualization of Singapore’s development, demonstrating the need for a more nuanced theory. These findings provide evidence that a more complex development schema exists in the minds of ordinary individuals, and the DI cultural model may need to reform its assumption that Western values continue to be the baseline for modernity and development in the developing world.

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