Bangkok (1932)/ Elite as the virtual structure for Bangkok’s transformation

Socio-spatial domination has always been the reason for the division of space and sprawling of urban transformation in Bangkok’s 1900s. Though the majority of the Thai are classified as lower classes, the elites from the royal and the wealthy are at the top of spacial hierarchy, that became the virtual structures to confine rules and division for space. As Gidden comments that “social structures are ‘virtual structures’ …social relations can be negotiated, and rules can be ignored… the city becomes a symbol of state ideology, when urbanism is one factor for access to positions of power and when the state is based on the city…under these circumstances the city and its constructions emerge as a power resources of the elite” (Gidden 1993, 229) They were the critical backbone power that defined the style and empowered the European influences into the streets and highways (from khlongs to concrete).

“When the aristocratic elite lost its political power to the bureaucratic elite following the revolt of 1932, the structure of Bangkok was changed.” (Nas 1993, 236)

Before so, Bangkok was the political basis for the aristocratic elite, which reserved the city in memorial as a sacred center, which as well suggesting the centering of totalitarian elite power. Soon, the lost of power and instability turned the government to the bureaucratic elite, signaling the first constitutional monarchy in the famous Siamese bloodless revolution of 1932. The complete shifting in political structure suggested the imposition of Western power, and the intention of self-colonization in Bangkok. Radamnoen Road, the symbolic pavement that once represented the kingdom’s prosperity was ordered to be replaced into a public avenue, with the Democracy Monument standing in the center of the linearity that ran through the city. Western amenities began to pour into the Thai traditional society, with theatre, American nightclubs, hotels, and shops. It became the critical era, in completing the early transformation of urban practices, from tradition to technology (the first public road was opened to all vehicles) by Rama IV in 1857.

Road celebrating the new government with vehicle and elites.
Road celebrating the new government with vehicle and elites.

“Centennial Celebration© 1932, DailyMailUK”

The victory of the bureaucratic elites for a constitutional monarchy.
The victory of the bureaucratic elites for a constitutional monarchy.

“Victory© 1932, DailyMailUK”


NAS, J.M. Peter. (1993) Bangkok as Symbol. Urban Symbolism.1st Ed. New York: Studies in Human Society.

MARSHALL, Richard. (2003) The Golden City in the City of Angels, Emerging Urbanity, 1st Ed. New York: Spon Press.

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