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Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  456 ratings  ·  89 reviews
"Think of Singapore instead as the Air-Conditioned Nation—a society with a unique blend of comfort and central control, where people have mastered their environment, but at the cost of individual autonomy, and at the risk of unsustainability."

Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited is an anthology of essays on Singapore politics by Cherian George. It draws upon his influential co
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 22nd 2020 by Ethos Books
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Alex Shrugged Some of the articles are abridged versions from the original book, "Air-conditioned Nation" (2000) with some more recent commentary added. I have not …moreSome of the articles are abridged versions from the original book, "Air-conditioned Nation" (2000) with some more recent commentary added. I have not read the original book. This book seems pretty good. I'm halfway through and it looks like I'm going to give it a high rating.(less)

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ash | spaceyreads
This is the first time I'm reading Cherian George and I must say I really enjoyed his writing. He displays such intelligence and clear expertise and scholarship through his essays. His writing is concise and relatable - for an academic writing on his life's work, his writing never came across as lofty or lecturing, rather, his passion for the subject and love for his country really shone through and sets a foundation for his sharp observations and critical analyses. George also has a dry humor w ...more
David Mah
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: singlit, historical
I wish more Singaporeans gave a bit of their time and effort to ponder the system, how it came to be, and how it could be. Idealistic yet sobering, Cherian articulates the troubled feelings I have but could not describe. Discourse in his book ranges from problems in education, censorship, government coercion, and political capital.

One quote which I feel encapsulates the reason for the high levels of apathy amongst my social circles is this:
"Singapore's tragedy is not the total absence of ide
Koh Grace
Jul 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Witty, informative and well-compiled series of essays. Definitely a succinct account of Singapore’s history, politics and where we are heading. Probably a staple for every GP student / good Singaporean.
Basil Chong
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Essays from 2000, 2015, 2017, and 2020 make up this thought-provoking collection. The fact that a little under half (16 out of 37) of these essays were written 20 years ago does not mean that this book is irrelevant or outdated. In fact, as Cherian himself states in the preface:

Twenty years seems a long time in the life of a fast-changing city-state. In that time, the number of people in Singapore rose by 45 per cent. The nation got richer, and more developed. Singaporeans are more connected, an
Guan Jie
Oct 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have heard of the phrase "Air Conditioned Nation" before. I thought this was Singapore's nickname purely because we survive on air-conditioning. Everyone knows of the feeling about sweating in the sweltering heat outdoors (the mask makes things worse) only to be saved by the rush of cool air on the bus/MRT/mall. While true, I learned that the nickname was coined because Singapore is a:

a society with a unique blend of comfort and central control, where people have mastered their environment,
Fang Yiyang
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is an anthology of essays from Cherian George’s two works on Singapore politics—Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation (2000) and Singapore, Incomplete (2017); both collections of essays themselves. It also includes a few of his latest essays, published in 2020. That being said, the lack of new content (less than a handful of essays) does leave the reader wanting for more, especially those who are already familiar with the author’s works (for me, I had already read Singapore, Incomplete ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoy reading Cherian George. Whether or not you agree with every point he makes, he comes across as intelligent and principled, and passionate about his country. In this collection of essays he explores the meaning of democracy and freedom, and asks difficult questions about how things are done in Singapore. You know that old song, ‘It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it’? That’s what kept playing in my head as I read. The book reads not as a complaint about government competence, ...more
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: singlit
we don’t talk about politics enough in singapore. not in the way that it needs to be talked about: without it warranting the question of whether you’re an ungrateful citizen, the fear of judgement or fear of state retribution (this is specifically covered in one of the essays).

this book informed me (hard), checked my biases and confirmed suspicions, and will definitely open up more discussions that we ought to always have now, and in the future. resist the compulsion to be apathetic.
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Lester Tan
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
In a 2017 New Yorker article Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds, authors Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach shared: "As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding."

It is relevant because we, at some points in our lives, would've encountered that vocal cabby who tore the leading government into pieces with his words; or that father-in-law who swore at a political party while throwing up his fist to show where his heart lies. Their behaviour was said to be justified—b
Aquila Michiryu
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Politics isn’t really my cup of tea. However, when I got hold of Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give Singapore politics a read (for once😂). I’m glad I did.

Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited is an anthology of essays on Singapore politics written by Cherian George, a journalist-turned-academic who has written on Singapore politics for 30 years.

Cherian George shows his astute observations about Singapore politics through his thought-provoking essays la
Sophia Ong
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was clear-eyed, intelligent and balanced, rendering Cherian’s ‘cancellation’ by the government even more baffling and terrifying. A huge loss for the NTU journalism school.
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Singapore's tragedy is not the total absence of idealism, but that it systematically rewards the individualistic majority & discourages the socially conscious minority."

This book collects 20 years worth of writing on politics in Singapore, stretching back to when I was still a toddler until now, as an adult! Sadly, a lot of what he talks about 20 years ago remain relevant, & in fact, I think it's good for younger ones to read this to get a sense of the political landscape 20 years ago & the pol
Khin WT
Dec 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
In this book, Cherian George presents us with a model with which to study the socio-political development of Singapore. In his opening essay, he writes “think of Singapore instead as the Air-Conditioned Nation—a society with a unique blend of comfort and central control, where people have mastered their environment, but at the cost of individual autonomy, and at the risk of unsustainability.” Rejecting the spectrum between authoritarianism and democracy, Singapore’s political model is one that a ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What better book to read as GE2020 rounds the corner other than Cherian George’s anthology of essays on politics in Singapore? This was my first foray into Cherian George’s writing - and, if I must admit, into any writing about politics in Singapore, period. Cherian George’s writing is compulsively readable, engaging, and easy to follow. While the perspectives he offers may not be entirely “fresh” or “exciting” for readers who have been “up-to-date” (so to speak) on the state of Singapore’s poli ...more
Nov 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I didn’t finish the last section but wanted to review this as it’s fresh in my mind, and finish it when I’m back in Singapore next year.

The book started out strong for the first 50%. The metaphor of the air condition for the politics of comfort and control in Singapore, the ingenuity of Lee Kwan Yew and the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, and the analysis of the 4th Gen of PAP leaders was incisively written and a nice peek under the curtains.

However the latter chapters were unremarkable and
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited is an anthology of 37 essays written by Cherian George over the past 20 years. Flitting between 2000 and 2017, we see how the political landscape and people of Singapore have changed over time, with George succinctly covering each issue with grace and expertise.

While a lot of his essays are littered with his own subjective opinions, he introduces the elements to the issues and various viewpoints to the reader as well, allowing us to formulate our own grasp of the
Magdalene Lim
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Air-conditioning strikes a cord as most of us are working from home, away from our air-conditioned offices, this Circuit Breaker/Lockdown period. Is it enjoyable to work without the air-conditioning? Probably not. Some claim to not be able to work if they don't have air-con. But can we live without it? Probably but it's not ideal.

I am surprised that this book got published and republished, but am glad that it did. It opened my eyes and would give anyone (especially the politically apathetic) the
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
With sharp critiques and a plethora of probing anecdotes - air conditioned nation revisited allows us to revisit our conceptions of what Singapore is and what it ought to be. A great introduction to Singaporean politics and an incisive way to measure our progress as a country. The essays from 2000 for better or worse still provide an insightful questioning of whether the truths we hold to be self-evident are indeed self-evident.
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
amazing read! it got me thinking on many things that i've never really think about before - why we behave the way we behave as Singaporeans. the system, the media, the nation. and many of the incidents happened when i was growing up and not bothered about politics etc. we're a truly air-conditioned nation. ...more
Stan Georgiana

1st book for Invisible cities project
Country: Singapore
Ying Xuan
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own, singlit
I first picked up this book during the General Elections earlier this year - where I picked essays to better understand the past events which formed our electoral landscape today. The rest of the book took me a few months of nibbling, digesting and internalising. And I'm sure it would be a book that I will want to be sitting on my shelf, and to revisit occasionally.

I appreciated Cherian George's analogies, which are mostly relatable and unforgettable. (be it the air-con, semiconductor cleanroom
Mar 29, 2022 rated it liked it
I'm not smart- or well-informed enough to comment in depth on these particular topics, but I will say that the combination of pride in progressivism (such as the advanced architecture and technology in Singapore) contrasted with extremely reductive views on social issues (such as the state of queer rights in Singapore) is very familiar. ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Air Conditioned Nation Revisited combines Cherian George's essays from The Air-Conditioned Nation (2000) and Singapore Incomplete (2017), with a couple of essays from 2020. In the preface, George confesses he was long loathe to re-open The Air-Conditioned Nation, wary of the "potential embarrassment". But 20 years after its publication, he muses that perhaps these essay now have "some archeological value, at the very least".

I read The Air-Conditioned Nation in 2002, before Goodreads was launched
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent collection of essays around the intricacies of the state of Singapore’s government and civil society. Each chapter is concisely written, organised by themes. I appreciated the update in this new edition with some stories from 2017, the year when I had just arrived and was only barely aware of the general situation. 3 years later, I think have some additional background, and this book filled in the gaps.

As explained in the book, the title is a brilliant subversion of the original com
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book. George writes so well about the political scene within Singapore, capturing its essence and raising its issues in a well-substantiated and eloquent manner. A thoroughly enjoyable read, as well as providing much food-for-thought.

Favourite Quotes:

Goh, on taking office, remarked on his predecessor’s “size 20 shoes”, but was undeterred. “Any successor will find the shoes he has left too big,” he said. “I do not intend to wear his shoes. I shall wear my own, and choose my
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book just before the 2020 General Elections, hoping to educate myself a little about the political scene in Singapore. I feel like this should be a pre-requite reading to anyone who wishes to make an informed choice at the polls on Election Day. I knew close to nothing beforehand. But this book gave me a crash course about how everything worked. It gently leads me to engage in critical discourse on a wide range of topics such as: the history and experiences of Singapore's politi ...more
[Book Review] Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited: Essays on Singapore Politics by Cherian George

I‘m a big fan of the books published by @ethosbooks, so when they reached out asking me to review this new 2020 anthology I was both incredibly thrilled and very honoured!

This collection of 37 enduring essays (old and new) on Singapore politics and history was written by former Straits Times veteran political journalist @cheriangeorge in 2000, 2017 and 2020.

These personal writings cover many topics, ran
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This collection of essays is about how the country of Singapore is stable, compact, and digitally connected, and how it has a government system symbolized by an air conditioner, suggestive of an authoritarian democracy. The society is air conditioned in the sense that there is central control and comfort from the AC unit, but at the cost of individual autonomy. The author argues that the AC nation prioritizes comfort (good communities, stability, better pay, good schools, and a stable society.) ...more
Mavis Chan
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: singapore
Thoroughly enjoyed the insightful essays on key aspects of Singapore's growth and subsequent challenges in the decades since independence. I particularly enjoyed how the older essays stood the test of time and served to provide context for the more recent ones. It was interesting to compare and contrast the challenges and leadership styles between the different PMs.

Singapore's rapid rise can be attributed to strong leadership and good strategic decision making at a time where tough measures and
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Cherian George, born in Singapore in 1965, is a journalist-turned-academic who has written on Singapore politics for 30 years. After studying social and political sciences at Cambridge and journalism at Columbia, he spent the 1990s working at the Straits Times. He received his PhD in communication at Stanford in 2003 and is currently a professor of media studies at Hong Kong Baptist University.

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