MANAGING THE PUBLIC SECTOR VIA SELF-SUFFICIENCY
In 2015 I was asked by Professor Dr Voradej Chandarasorn, the quondam President of Shinawatra University, to assist him in producing his latest book, 'Managing the Private Sector via Self-Sufficiency'. My contributions consisted of supplying English text to the main tome and proposing content about the philosophical concepts underlying the subject matter for the book's introduction.
After living and working in Thailand for the preceding two decades, I had heard numerous references to the philosophy of self-sufficiency; Professor Voradej's invitation gave me the opportunity to investigate and conduct research into the latter's derivation, premises, components and - above all - its extensive practical applications.
In Thailand, the philosophy of self-sufficiency is closely associated with HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned from 9th June 1946 to 13th October 2016. Upon ascending to the throne, King Bhumibol familiarised himself with the plight of Thai farmers, many of whom suffered from low incomes despite working long hours. The king then sought to advance rural development and initiated various royal projects with the aim of alleviating poverty and hardship in the countryside.
The philosophy of self-sufficiency he subsequently refined was expounded in various speeches and publications from the 1970s. It came to incorporate elements of sociology, economics, business studies, community development, conservation, ethics and psychology; its emphasis was on practical benefits secured through worthwhile means. It assumed a particular importance and relevance when the 1997 financial crisis took an especially adverse toll on the 'tiger economies' of Southeast Asia, including Thailand's. Then and subsequently, this philosophy has come to be regarded as a key to achieving sustainability from producing enough for everyone (without generating any unnecessary, socially fractious surplus) in a morally and socially just manner.
Philosophy has ranked highly among my interests from my teenage years, and since moving to Asia in 1999 I've had the chance to explore various oriental traditions and schools of thought in greater depth and to compare these to the western models with which I was au fait.
I was very honoured to be asked to assist Professor Dr Voradej with this project; reflecting on the wide range of components that constitutes the philosophy of self-sufficiency brought to mind the tradition of eclecticism that characterises some western forms of thought and practice.
What might be termed ‘smart eclecticism’ began at the time of classical philosophy in ancient Greece and Rome. A sifting process took place to retain what was reasonable in quondam beliefs, to discard what wasn’t and thus to create a new synthesis that was regarded as topical, relevant and up to date. Underlying this practice was a tension between the noble quest for pure truth and the practical considerations of living in the world and finding happiness therein. This sifting and tension underscored the debates and disputes conducted (with various degrees of amicability) between Greek Stoics, Epicureans, Platonists, sceptics and others.
Similar discussions and controversies were taken up and aired by later Roman, neo-Pythagorean and neo-Platonist adherents, and the same process of selection, rejection and a new starting point made eclecticism a common feature of the development of philosophy in the classical era and subsequently.
The themes, topics and motifs of the discussions changed (the early focus on the relationship between truth and practical accommodation gave way to a later concentration on the relationship between the divine and the mortal), but the same interest in considering a range of sources, evaluating each one critically and choosing those felt to be of value made eclecticism a constant feature of philosophical enquiry.
struck while studying the philosophy of self-sufficiency how effectively it combines aspects of economics, agriculture, sociology, conservation and ethics.
In May 2006, Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, travelled to Thailand to present King Bhumibol Adulyadej with the first-ever UN Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award. During his presentation of this honour, the secretary-general praised not only the king’s “extraordinary contribution” to human development, but also what Annan described as the monarch’s visionary thinking.
This latter remark referred to the economic and social philosophy which the king has pieced together, thanks to many years of both practical experience and personal meditation. It is a philosophy known as “sufficiency economy”. This idea, which he first began to think about in 1972 and formalised following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, gained momentum in the 1990s and is now seen as an important contributor to the UN’s international development goals. It is also having an impact in the boardroom, where companies, from Thailand to Tuscany, have been looking at sufficiency economy for the keys to a sustainable and profitable future, both for their company and for the wider world in which it operates.
Sufficiency economy places sustainability at the very core of its thinking, advancing a different approach from that of short-term, shareholder value-centred ideas of economic development. The take-up of this philosophy has also placed the country at the forefront of studies in sustainability, while also providing the world with some remarkable blueprints and success stories.
To read the foreword to this book kindly composed by Associate Professor Dr Luedech Girdwichai, President of Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, please click here.
To purchase a copy of this book, please contact Rajabhat Suan Sunanda University, whose website may be accessed here.
To view a PowerPoint presentation on Management in the Public Sector using the Philosophy of Economic Self- Sufficiency I delivered to postgraduate students at Shinawatra University on 20th December 2015, please click here: <public_administration_and_public_policy.pptx>.
iProfessor Dr Voradej Chandarasorn earned his Ph.D. in Public Administration from New York University, USA, in 1985. He taught and served as Dean of the Graduate School of Public Administration, National Institute of Public Administration, Thailand, in the 1990s. Later, he became Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of University Affairs in 2001, Commissioner of Higher Education in 2003 and Secretary General of the National Education Council in 2004. He also held the position of President of Shinawatra University, Thailand, from 2012 to 2015. He has undertaken charitable work and was accordingly appointed President of the Taksin Foundation for Education Development in 2003. He currently occupies the posts of Council member and Chairman of the Academic Promotion Committee at Rajabhat Suan Sunandha University. A distinguished professor of Public Administration, he has published more than 30 books and is widely acknowledged as a leading authority in the fields of Public Policy and Bureaucratic Reform. His numerous accomplishments include ranking among the leading academics who successfully effected a major reform in Thai public sector bureaucracy in 2002.