The Way Thais Lead: A Book Review

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The Way Thais Lead: Face as Social Capital Larry S. Persons Silkworm Books
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As you navigate relationships in Thai society, always remember: to accept a considerable act of generosity is to relinquish power to a patron. From that point on, you must give face to that benefactor on a regular basis and you must never disappoint him. It is as though you have received a substantial loan and you’ve chosen to live in a state of indebtedness.
The Way Thais Lead is available as hard copy on the Silkworm Books website ebook on Amazon
2 comments
  1. I expect it is but from your description it doesn’t sound a lot different than the hierarchical structure of the Italian mafia families as they existed in the USA. Definitely have patrons which provide opportunities for you then you owe them from that point on. Smart leaders used this capital carefully to build loyalty and stupid ones got betrayed eventually. This sound familiar?

    1. I think a great many relationship-based societies will work in similar ways – by incurring or settling relationship debts. The difference of course lies in the consequences of defaulting on said debt. In Thailand it’s very detrimental to your career and social standing, but you can afford to default. It just comes at a price. On the other hand the relationship is a lot more mutual. Patriarchy is not a one-way system.

      An alternative example in the US rather than the Italian mafia would be a presidential campaign team. Your success and failure is tied to the leader you follow and your support of that leader will also result in you receiving support back in the future. There is a lot of relational debt incurred by acceptance of volunteer work and campaign donations. These donors will often expect returns.

      In Thailand it often is the other way round, and it puts a lot of pressure on direct reports. Let’s say a politician wants to run a campaign and hands out money to local leaders in order to gather their support. If they accept it, they are responsible for rallying their own community to vote for them. They would then go on and distribute benefits to their community. If they fail to rally their community for that politician, it will reflect badly on the leaders, and they’ll suffer the consequences. The members of their communities know that. In order to not betray their local leaders, they will vote for the politician that the leader suggests – not because they themselves suffer consequences, but because their leaders would.

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