Grand Prize 2017 [28th]
Pasuk PHONGPAICHIT & Chris BAKER
Economist [ Professor of Economics, Chulalongkorn University ]
Thailand / Economics
Born February 11 1946 (aged 71)
Historian [ Independent scholar ]
U.K. / History
Born January 3 1948 (aged 69)
Prof. Pasuk Phongpaichit and Dr. Chris Baker are the worthy recipients of the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Prize, because of their multidisciplinary and comprehensive analysis of the social changes which Thailand has experienced since the period of rapid economic growth in the 1980s, an analysis based on a combination of Western and Eastern intellectual approaches, and of methodologies from the social sciences and the humanities, which has added breadth and depth to academic research, in both subject-matter and methodology, in a fresh and distinctively Asian way; and also because of their active contributions to society.
* At the time of receipt of the Prize.
Prof. Pasuk Phongpaicht and Dr. Chris Baker have together carried out a multidisciplinary and comprehensive analysis of the social changes which Thailand has experienced since its rapid economic growth in the 1980s, combining in their joint work intellectual perspectives from the West and the East, academic insights from social science and the humanities, and male and female sensibilities. Moving effortlessly beyond traditional boundaries, they have developed fresh and profound approaches to the subject-matter and methodologies of their academic research fields. They have jointly published more than 10 books, and as public intellectuals have been active on the international stage.
Among the many achievements of Prof. Pasuk and Dr. Baker, the biggest contribution is their attempt to make sense of the diverse problems which Thai society is currently facing by widening their analytical scope to include not only politics and economics but also a comprehensive and multi-faceted examination of aspects of society and culture, extending even to popular sets of values. For example, Thailand’s Boom! (1996), written about the bubble economy in the early 1990s, gives a vivid picture of Thai society at the time by presenting, besides the political and economic developments, the frantic rush to speculate in stocks and land, as well as the new consumption culture and the trends in youth culture. As soon as the Thai economic bubble burst after the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, they published Thailand’s Boom and Bust (1998) in which the collapse of the bubble economy is scrupulously traced. They were quick to analyze the background to Thailand’s financial crisis and to introduce the economic reforms subsequently in progress in Thailand’s Crisis, which appeared in 2000.
Prof. Pasuk studied economics at the University of Cambridge, and in the 1980s began producing empirical analyses of the modern Thai economy. Dr. Baker was an energetic historian, also at Cambridge, working on the history of the Indian subcontinent. On Prof. Pasuk’s return to Thailand, he gave up his teaching post and moved to Bangkok with her. Ever since, they have worked together: Prof. Pasuk deals with economic issues, Dr. Baker with arts and culture, and they cover politics together. They have cultivated a superb balance between division of labor and mutual collaboration. The multidisciplinary method of analysis as if through a compound eye, viewing politics and economics, and society and culture, as an organic entity is a unique one invented by them. Their masterpiece, Thaksin (2004) analyzing the current Thai politics from a business point of view, is a product of this method.
Besides these works, Prof. Pasuk and Dr. Baker have published widely on contemporary Thai society. Their themes include the urban middle class, the informal sector, Thai investors after the financial crisis, increasing economic disparity and environment and social movements. Their publications in this field all combine incisive awareness and abundant evidentiary data to illuminate our understanding of contemporary Thailand.
Two of the most distinguished publications among their joint works are A History of Thailand (2005) which was written specifically as a textbook for a new era, and Thailand: Economy and Politics (1995, translated into Japanese in 2006) which covers the Thai economy and politics from the mid-19th century to the present-day. These two volumes are indispensable not only for researchers on Thailand but also anyone working on South-East Asia.
Another major work of theirs is the English translation of a popular Thai epic verse, The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen. This epic was completed by the 1840s at the latest, and King Rama II and the great poet, Sunthorn Phu were among the contributors. This was written in old Thai, the language used before the reign of King Rama V. It had been declared almost impossible to translate the whole work into English without extensive knowledge of the life, customs and culture of both the royal court and ordinary people influenced by the ancient India. To overcome such a challenge, the combined force of Dr. Baker’s early research into Indian history and the vast knowledge of Thai society they each possess played a vital role.
By the prominence of their joint researches, and their great social contribution as eminent intellectuals in Thailand, Prof. Pasuk Phongpaichit and Dr. Chris Baker are indeed very worthy recipients of the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.