This concluding chapter reflects on the analytical and normative significance to this book's approach toward colonial bureaucracies and inner anxieties of the administrative state. Understanding this bureaucratic dynamic in the historical context of Southeast Asia provides a theoretical opportunity for scholars of colonialism and the modern state to rethink some basic assumptions about why and how rulers govern. The interrelated analytical and normative implications to this alternative understanding orients attention away from the loud hubris of power toward the quiet trepidations of those who govern. To begin by thinking along with welcome approaches to reconceptualizing the state in light of its complexity and “many hands, functions, and forms of power,” political scientists gain reason to assume less coherence behind motivations for bureaucratic projects that adjust and advance the state's fiscal reach. If there are context-specific regulatory histories and ambivalent administrative actors, then rationales for policies altering the scope of taxation and depth of social control must differ depending on how bureaucracies reflect on their own pasts and construct problems internally. It follows that retrospective assessments, ways of archiving official records, and interpretation by low-level administrators may define reasons that higher officials take for granted as imperatives for state action.
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