‘Transition’ has been a staple concept in political science, law, economics, and development studies for several decades. Easily transposed from the analytic context into everyday parlance, it carries a teleological sense of progress and promise, a ritualistic shedding of a ‘before’ as part of a present journey into a brighter future. Even where it is not defined any further, it can serve as a rallying cry, or a delaying tactic in the face of those demanding more radical change. Today’s use of ‘transition’ in reference to Myanmar found in scholarly, journalistic, and general idiom, then, is nothing new: ‘transition’ as a paradigm has a long history in places like Spain after Franco, during the democratization of Latin America, and in the post-Soviet spaces of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. After reviewing the literature on ‘transitology’, we focus on the anthropological critique of the paradigm that was taken up by political scientists when ever more countries were declared to be ‘in transition’. We argue that Myanmar is only the last example of states that are assigned a transitory stage of development. This article addresses the political agendas and the pitfalls that travel along with the paradigm.


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pp. 215-241
Launched on MUSE
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