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Catalog Archive / Spring 2022

Royal Capitalism
Wealth, Class, and Monarchy in Thailand

New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies
Series Editors: Alfred W. McCoy, Ian G. Baird, Katherine A. Bowie, and Anne Ruth Hansen

Honorable Mention of the 2022 Harry J. Benda Prize

“The most important book to be written on Thai politics in a generation. Combining a fine-grained historical analysis with a keen theoretical eye, Puangchon Unchanam forges new ground in Marxian thought and reveals how the monarchy manages to engage in unprecedented capital accumulation while dispossessing the people with their consent.”
—Tyrell Haberkorn, author of In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand

Thanks to its active role in national politics, the market economy, and popular culture, the Thai crown remains both the country’s dominant institution and one of the world’s wealthiest monarchies. Puangchon Unchanam examines the reign of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IX (1946–2016) and how the crown thrived by transforming itself into a distinctly “bourgeois” monarchy that co-opted middle-class values of hard work, frugality, and self-sufficiency.

The kingdom positioned itself to connect business elites, patronize local industries, and form strategic partnerships with global corporations. Instead of restraining or regulating royal power, white-collar workers joined with the crown to form a dynamic, symbiotic force that has left the lower classes to struggle in their wake. Unchanam presents a surprising case study that kings and queens live long and large in cooperation with the bourgeoisie’s interests and ideology.


Puangchon Unchanam is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Naresuan University.




“This book is critical reading for anyone interested in how Thailand’s monarchy has survived to become not only the preeminent actor in politics but the largest economic force in Thailand and one of the wealthiest actors in the world. Unchanam’s account of a monarchy coming back from the brink is a powerful and persuasive one.”
—Allen Hicken, University of Michigan



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Also in the Series


Everyday Economic Survival in Myanmar
Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung

Royal Capitalism: Cover of a photo of a large crowd in Thailand of people raising different Thai currency above their heads. Above and below the photo there are black blocks with yellow designs.

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New in Paperback!
February 2022
LC: 2019008293 D
336 pp. 6 x 9
25 b/w illus.

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Casebound $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299326005
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Paper $26.95 S
ISBN 9780299326043
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