top of page


Kenneth Paul Tan, PhD (Cambridge)
Talent100 Professor of Politics, Film, and Cultural Studies
Hong Kong Baptist University

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
Final cover.jpeg
978-981-19-0367-0_PM - Pi - Mo - 07 - HC - A5_Menaga, J (1) 2.jpg
Book, SIngapore Identity Brand Power (Ch
Book, Singapore Identity Brand Power.jpe
Book Governing Global-City Singapore.jpe
Book, LKYSPP.jpeg
Book, Cinema and Television in Singapore
Book, Rennaisance Singapore.png
Final cover.jpeg
978-981-19-0367-0_PM - Pi - Mo - 07 - HC - A5_Menaga, J (1) 2.jpg
Book, SIngapore Identity Brand Power (Ch
Book, Singapore Identity Brand Power.jpe
Book Governing Global-City Singapore.jpe
Book, LKYSPP.jpeg
Book, Cinema and Television in Singapore
Book, Rennaisance Singapore.png

Kenneth Paul Tan (2022) Movies to Save Our World: Imagining Poverty, Inequality and Environmental Destruction in the 21st Century (Penguin)

Available at:; Penguin

Through a close analysis of more than seventy popular documentaries and feature movies from around the world, produced in the twenty-first century, this book explores the theme of poverty, inequality, ecological degradation and revolutionary change, all associated with a contemporary crisis of neoliberal globalization in a world where it has become so pervasive. Profit rules, while poverty and inequality make the political ground fertile for populist manipulation. By returning power to the people, healthier forms of populism can lead the way to progressive revolutionary change that enriches democracy and corrects for social injustice. However, through ideological and political manipulation, populism can also take more debased authoritarian forms, promoting conformism, domination, exploitation, marginalization and degradation of humanity and its habitat. The book urges progressive moviemakers to take advantage of advancements in digital technologies and to collaborate, in post-pandemic times, with educators to develop public deliberation skills and inspire a new generation of informed and compassionate change-makers.

1.   What is Wrong with Our World Today?

2.   The Populism of Michael Moore, Working-Class Hero

3.   Corporate Greed: Health, Education, and Criminal Justice

4.   Destroying Our Planet

5.   Narrating Poverty, Inequality, and Revolution

6.   Capitalist Psychos and Cinematic Zombies

7.   Can Movies Really Save Our World?

"Can movies build registers for bringing about social change amidst the devastating effects of neoliberal globalization and the global rise of authoritarian populism? Professor Kenneth Paul Tan, one of the most significant public intellectuals of Singapore, grapples with this vital question of our times, exploring the ways in which cinema can build our capacities for collective deliberation to build a just and sustainable world. The striking geographic expanse of the book and the brilliant analysis of the questions of poverty, inequality, massive ecological destruction, authoritarian populism and revolution offer conceptual fodder for exploring the ways in which the craft of moviemaking can connect audiences with their moral feelings and intuitions."

Mohan Dutta, Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication at Massey University, and Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE)

"In Movies To Save Our World, Kenneth Paul Tan explores how cinematic texts present poverty, inequality and environmental destruction in today’s global world. Tan engages the films of Michael Moore and other major documentary filmmakers, as well as significant narrative fictional texts, to explore how cinema can help us see the problems, challenges, and inequities of the world, as well as possible solutions. The result is a probing and provocative text that enables us to envision the political possibilities of contemporary cinema."

Douglas Kellner, Distinguished Research Professor of Education, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA



Kenneth Paul Tan (editor) (2022) Singapore's First Year of COVID-19: Public Health, Immigration, the Neoliberal State, and Authoritarian Populism (Palgrave Macmillan)

Available at: Springer; 

This book addresses the question of what Singapore's COVID-19 pandemic response in the first year can tell us about the strengths and weaknesses of the Singapore model and what its prospects might be in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous post-pandemic world. As a concise, holistic, and critical documentation of the first year of COVID-19 in Singapore, the multi-disciplinary chapters in this book provide a broad-ranging analysis of an internationally admired model of governance severely tested by a global pandemic crisis whose end is still not in sight. The book focuses specifically on the interconnections among Singapore’s political economy, public health policies, immigration policies, and the elite and pragmatic system of state authoritarianism that, especially since the 1980s, has been at the heart of managing the tensions and contradictions of a nation-state that is also a global city, an important node in a network of goods, services, investments, wealth, people, ideas, and images, all moving rapidly. The chapters critically employ topics and concepts such as neoliberal globalization, authoritarian populism, moral panic, social stigmatization, heterotopia, spatial segregation, and others to make sense of a thoroughly complex situation.

  1. Neoliberal Globalization, Authoritarian Populism, and Moral Panics

    Kenneth Paul Tan

  2. Neoliberal Singapore: Nation-State and Global City

    Andrea Dugo

  3. Public Health Legacies: Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and SARS in Singapore

    Hongwu Lyu, Aymeric Vo Quang

  4. Tackling Covid-19, the Singapore Way

    Johanna Dirlewanger-Lücke, Junhao Li

  5. The Contradictions and Challenges of Singapore’s Immigration Policy

    Davide Brugola, Michael Flood

  6. Migrant Worker Dormitories: Virus in a Neoliberal Politics of Space

    Carolin Bernhard, Mara Ellemunt

  7. Ready for the Post-Pandemic World?

    Kenneth Paul Tan

陳思賢 (2020) (譯:鄺健銘) 新加坡模式:城邦國家建構簡史 (季風帶文化)

Kenneth Paul Tan (2020) (trans. Kwong Kin Ming) Singapore Model: A Brief History of City-State Construction (Monsoon Belt Culture)

Available at:







在《新加坡模式—城邦國家建構簡史》之中,新加坡李光耀公共政策學院前副院長陳思賢(Kenneth Paul Tan)認為,論述是建國重要根基。新加坡一黨獨大的威權管治所以能夠延續至今,主要原因是官

方積極宣揚其國家發展論述,並希望藉此取信於民﹑維持政府威信。這套官方論述強調,國家生存基礎 薄弱,與此同時人民行動黨政府秉持實用主義哲學,重視用人唯賢﹑廉潔與誠信,並以長遠目光發展國 家經濟。國家若非由人民行動黨政府以威權方式治國,新加坡便會陷入分裂,難有今天亮麗成就。不過,官方這套國家發展論述已因新加坡擁有雙重身份而愈加受質疑。新加坡既是國族國(nation-state),也是全球城市(global city)。國家扮演雙重角色,令新加坡多種族、多宗教、多語言社會的矛盾 與日俱增。新加坡作為全球城市,需要積極迎合新自由主義式(neo-liberalism)全球化發展。但從新加 坡普羅大眾角度看,在「市場至上」管治方針下,新加坡社會的貧富差距問題日益加劇,政府管治表現 並非毫無瑕疵,「新加坡模式」逐漸失去光環,官方所宣揚的國家發展論述說服力漸失,官民關係更形 疏離,民怨在累積。面對瞬息萬變的全球局勢,於內憂外患之中,被全球大小國家視為發展典範的「新加坡模式」將會如 何延續其榮光?

陳思賢(Kenneth Paul Tan)將從本土民情角度書寫「新加坡模式」原貌,破除「新加坡神話」迷思,分析「新加坡模式」在後李光耀時代面臨的危機。《新加坡模式—城邦國家建構簡史》是立足本土﹑解構「新加 坡模式」成敗得失的必讀入門書。

Read about the book in:


Kenneth Paul Tan (2018) Singapore: Identity, Brand, Power (Cambridge University Press)

Available at:

Contemporary Singapore is simultaneously a small postcolonial multicultural nation state and a cosmopolitan global city. To manage fundamental contradictions, the state takes the lead in authoring the national narrative. This is partly an internal process of nation building, but it is also achieved through more commercially motivated and outward facing efforts at nation and city branding. Both sets of processes contribute to Singapore's capacity to influence foreign affairs, if only for national self-preservation. For a small state with resource limitations, this is mainly through the exercise of smart power, or the ability to strategically combine soft and hard power resources.

  1. Singapore's political development through cultural and ideological lenses

  2. Ideological sources of Singapore's hegemonic state

  3. A multiracial, multi-lingual, and multi-religious nation-state

  4. A cosmopolitan global city

  5. Civil society and public engagement

  6. Nation and city branding

  7. The soft power of a small state

  8. The future of the hegemonic state.





"Reading this book will do much to counter the all-too-ubiquitous, one-dimensional characterizations of Singapore, as it covers a wide range of caricature-busting ground in a mere 75 pages. Nearly all of it is in simple, jargon-free prose appropriate for a general audience or university classroom. Moreover, it largely avoids the pronounced pro- or anti-establishment overtones that mark much of the academic work on Singapore. ... Singapore: Identity, Brand, Power is highly effective as a starting point for understanding Singapore and as a reference for those already familiar with the country."


Kai Ostwald (2019) Book review in Pacific Affairs, 92(4). Full article available here.

"Kenneth Paul Tan draws an up-to-date, insightful, critical and detailed analysis of Singapore’s past achievements, current politics, and implications for the future. The book is an excellent discussion starter for scholars, policymakers, and those who are interested in current Singapore politics and policy implications for other Asian countries such as China."

M. Kerem Coban (2019) Book review in Chinese Public Administration Review, 10(1). Full article available here.


Kenneth Paul Tan (2017) Governing Global-City Singapore: Legacies and Futures After Lee Kuan Yew (Routledge)

Available at:; Routledge

This book provides a detailed analysis of how governance in Singapore has evolved since independence to become what it is today, and what its prospects might be in a post-Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) future. First, it discusses the question of political leadership, electoral dominance, and legislative monopoly in Singapore’s one-party dominant system and the system’s durability. Second, it tracks developments in Singapore’s public administration, critically analysing the formation and transformation of meritocracy and pragmatism, two key components of the state ideology. Third, it discusses developments within civil society, focusing in particular on issues related to patriarchy and feminism, hetero-normativity and gay activism, immigration and migrant worker exploitation, and the contest over history and national narratives in academia, the media, and the arts. Fourth, it discusses the People's Action Party (PAP) government’s efforts to connect with the public, including its national public engagement exercises that can be interpreted as a subtler approach to social and political control. In increasingly complex conditions, the state struggles to maintain its hegemony while securing a pre-eminent position in the global economic order. Tan demonstrates how trends in these four areas converge in ways that signal plausible futures for a post-LKY Singapore.

  1. Singapore’s Dominant Party System

  2. Harnessing Talent for a Macho-Meritocratic Elite

  3. Pragmatism and the Neoliberal State

  4. The Patriarchal State’s Feminization of Civil Society

  5. Gay Activism, Religious Conservatism, and the Policing of Neoliberal Crises

  6. Moral Panic and the Migrant Worker Folk Devil

  7. Inventing and Re-inventing the Public

  8. The Singapore Story: Censorship and Nostalgia in the Creative City

  9. Imagining Futures After Lee Kuan Yew










"No part of Singapore’s story escapes Tan’s critical eye, and he is relentless in questioning received wisdom and the motivations of the ruling classes. The message of the book is ultimately one of hope, however. Tan’s passion for Singapore shines through – in his view there is so much that is good and right with the country. Singapore can escape Macbeth’s fate by embracing a 'messier, more experimental, ever-questioning, and self-critical system that is able to institutionalise diversity and debate'. This may be challenging, but with passionate advocates such as Kenneth Paul Tan, Singapore’s path forward may become clear."


Harriet Loos, Centre for Public Impact, London. Full article here.


Kishore Mahbubani, Stavros N Yiannouka, Scott A Fritzen, Astrid S Tuminez, & Kenneth Paul Tan (2012) Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy: Building a Global Policy School in Asia (World Scientific)

Available at:; World Scientific

This book, co-authored by five distinguished academics in public policy led by Kishore Mahbubani, provides unique perspectives of key events and the thinking behind major decisions that help place the school in its current trajectory. The book has received rave reviews from world leaders, including Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia; Paul A Volcker, former Federal Reserve Chairman and Member of the Governing Board of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Singapore; Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and so on. In an industry of higher education that measures the longevity of its leading institutions in decades and centuries, the establishment and rapid growth of the eight-year-old Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School), National University of Singapore, is a remarkable story that deserves to be told. The five co-authors, all of whom were involved in guiding the School during its formative years, provide unique perspectives of key events and the thinking behind major decisions that helped place the School on its current trajectory. They also provide insights into the challenges faced along the way as well as their own motivations in becoming part of this enterprise. Finally, each author provides his or her own thoughts as to the challenges and opportunities that could emerge for the LKY School in years to come.

  1. Introduction: Inspiring Leaders, Improving Lives (Stavros N Yiannouka)

  2. Reflections of a Founding Dean (Kishore Mahbubani)

  3. Building a World-Class School of Public Policy (Stavros N Yiannouka)

  4. The Three Enigmas of Professional Policy Education (Scott A Fritzen)

  5. Richness, Rigour and Relevance: Creating a Strong and Vibrant Research Community at a New School of Public Policy (Astrid S Tuminez)

  6. A “Singapore School” of Public Policy (Kenneth Paul Tan)

  7. Conclusion: Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead (Scott A Fritzen)

Kenneth Paul Tan (2008) Cinema and Television in Singapore: Resistance in One Dimension (Brill)

Available at:; Brill

Through close readings of contemporary made-in-Singapore films (by Jack Neo, Eric Khoo, and Royston Tan) and television programs (Singapore Idol, sitcoms, and dramas), this book explores the possibilities and limitations of resistance within an advanced capitalist-industrial society whose authoritarian government skillfully negotiates the risks and opportunities of balancing its on-going nation-building project and its “global city” aspirations. This book adopts a framework inspired by Antonio Gramsci that identifies ideological struggles in art and popular culture, but maintains the importance of Herbert Marcuse’s one-dimensional society analysis as theoretical limits to recognize the power of authoritarian capitalism to subsume works of art and popular culture even as they attempt consciously—even at times successfully—to negate and oppose dominant hegemonic formations.

  1. One-Dimensional Singapore

  2. The Culture Industry in Renaissance-City Singapore

  3. Singapore Idol: Consuming Nation and Democracy

  4. Under One Ideological Roof? TV Sitcoms and Drama Series

  5. Imagining the Chinese Community through the Films of Jack Neo

  6. The Tragedy of the Heartlands in the Films of Eric Khoo

  7. The Films of Royston Tan: Local Notoriety, International Acclaim

  8. Conclusion

"... an extremely impressive overview of film and television in Singapore with very strong contextualization in an analysis of the polity, arts culture, and culture industries in Singapore. The author provides a powerful synthesis of Frankfurt School critical theory and British cultural studies to provide an original mapping of Singapore and its key forms of television and film culture. The book is extremely well-written, organized, and argued and … could be a classic on its subject … Drawing on a wealth of critical material, the author provides an insightful mapping of these cultural forms and creators of popular culture in Singapore. The author has a definite talent for providing excellent analysis with detailed reading of cultural texts and producers and a sharp critical eye that appeared very illuminating. These studies are exemplary works of concrete analysis of Singapore film and television."


Douglas Kellner, Distinguished Professor, UCLA

Kenneth Paul Tan (editor) (2007) Renaissance Singapore? Economy, Culture, Politics (NUS Press)

Available at: Amazon.comNUS Press

In this collection, public intellectuals and civil society activists discuss Singapore's public rhetoric about liberalization and its association with the development of a creative economy, focusing on questions surrounding conservatism, national identity and values, civil society activism, and the societal role of the younger generation. Moved by Singapore's Renaissance City Report, released in 2000 amidst an uneasy mix of millennial celebration and pessimism arising from a prolonged economic downturn, the authors engage with the public rhetoric of Singapore's transformation into a forward-looking, critical, unconventional, open, diverse, participatory, and inclusive society.

  1. In Renaissance Singapore, Kenneth Paul Tan

  2. New Politics for a Renaissance City? Kenneth Paul Tan

  3. Odd Man In, Janadas Devan

  4. Industrializing Creativity and Innovation, Terence Lee

  5. Censorship in Whose Name? Kenneth Paul Tan

  6. Caging the Bird: and the Pigeonholing of Singaporean Citizenship, Woo Yen Yen Joyceln and Colin Goh

  7. Keeping Vigil: Openness, Diversity, and Tolerance, Kirpal Singh

  8. Muslim Politics, the State, and Society, Suzaina Kadir

  9. The Canary and the Crow: Sintercom and the State Tolerability Index, Tan Chong Kee

  10. Theatre and Cultures: Globalizing Strategies, Alvin Tan

  11. The Working Committee: From "Fear" to Creative Activism, Chng Nai Rui

  12. Youth: Every Generation's Moral Panic, Kenneth Paul Tan

  13. Refreshing the Young PAP, Edwin Pang

  14. The Future of Alternative Party Politics: Growth or Extinction? Sylvia Lim

  15. Optimists, Pessimists, and Strategists, Kenneth Paul Tan

"... rich, thoughtful and provocative collection of essays by an interesting cross-section of Singaporeans … The result of this synergy is outstanding, in no small part thanks to the unusual level of direct input by its editor, Kenneth Tan, who contributed five chapters … Tan’s contributions were among the highlights of the book, drawing forth lessons and nuances from chapters, sometimes better than the authors themselves have done."


Michael Barr, former Editor-in-Chief of and Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, reviewed in Journal of Contemporary Asia, vol. 39 no. 3 (2009): 475-77)


bottom of page