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Beyond Oligarchy: Wealth, Power, and Contemporary Indonesian Politics

Beyond Oligarchy
Michele Ford and Thomas Pepinsky, eds.
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Beyond Oligarchy features a collection of essays by leading scholars of contemporary Indonesian politics and society, each addressing effects of material inequality on political power and contestation in democratic Indonesia. The contributors assess how critical concepts in the study of politics—oligarchy, inequality, power, democracy, and others—can be used to characterize the Indonesian case, and in turn, how the Indonesian experience informs conceptual and analytical debates in political science and related disciplines. In bringing together experts from around the world to engage with these themes, Beyond Oligarchy reclaims a tradition of focused intellectual debate across scholarly communities in Indonesian studies.

The collapse of Indonesia’s New Order has proven a critical juncture in Indonesian political studies, launching new analyses about the drivers of regime change and the character of Indonesian democracy. It has also prompted a new groundswell of theoretical reflection among Indonesianists on concepts such as representation, competition, power, and inequality. As such, the onset of Indonesia’s second democratic period represents more than just new point of departure for comparative analyses of Indonesia as a democratizing state; it has also served as a catalyst for theoretical and conceptual development.


Michele Ford is a professor of Southeast Asian Studies and director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney, where she holds an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. Michele’s research focuses on the Indonesian labor movement and trade unions in East and Southeast Asia. She has edited several volumes and is the author of Workers and Intellectuals: NGOs, Trade Unions and the Indonesian Labour Movement (NUS/Hawaii/KITLV, 2009).

Thomas B. Pepinsky is an associate professor in Cornell University’s department of government and associate director of the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project. His research lies at the intersection of comparative politics and international economics, with a focus on emerging markets in Southeast Asia. He is the author of Economic Crises and the Breakdown of Authoritarian Regimes: Indonesia and Malaysia in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2009).


  • Edward Aspinall is Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political and Social Change in the School of International, Political, and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University. He is the author of Opposing Suharto: Compromise, Resistance and Regime Change in Indonesia (Stanford University Press, 2005) and Islam and Nation: Separatist Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia (Stanford University Press, 2009). He has also written many shorter pieces about Indonesian politics, and has edited seven volumes. His research focuses on democracy, social movements, and social change in Indonesia.
  • Michael Buehler is a Lecturer in Comparative Politics in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). His teaching and research interests are in local politics with a focus on Indonesia. Michael has published on local politics in Indonesia in journals such as Comparative Politics, Party Politics, Indonesia, and the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies.
  • Teri L. Caraway is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her research focuses on comparative labor politics, international political economy, and the Indonesian labor movement. She is author of Assembling Women: The Feminization of Global Manufacturing (Cornell University ILR Press, 2007) and numerous peer-reviewed articles. She holds, with Michele Ford, an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant entitled “The Re-emergence of Political Labor in Indonesia.”
  • Vedi R. Hadiz is Professor of Asian Societies and Politics at the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University. He is the author of Localising Power in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia: A Southeast Asia Perspective (Stanford University Press, 2010) and co-author (with Richard Robison) of Reorganising Power in Indonesia: The Politics of Oligarchy in an Age of Markets (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004). As an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, he is currently conducting research on state, class, and Islamic populism in Indonesia and the Middle East.
  • R. William Liddle is Professor Emeritus of political science and research associate at the Mershon Center, Ohio State University. His research focuses on Indonesian political leadership and voting behavior. Recent publications include Memperbaiki Mutu Demokrasi di Indonesia: Sebuah Perdebatan (Yayasan Paramadina, 2012) and Kuasa Rakyat (Mizan 2012), with Saiful Mujani and Kuskridho Ambardi.
  • Marcus Mietzner is Senior Lecturer and Fellow at the Department of Political and Social Change in the School of International, Political, and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University. His research focuses on the political role of the military, political parties, and electoral politics in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia. Marcus is the author of Money, Power, and Ideology: Political Parties in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia (NUS/Hawaii/NIAS, 2013). He has edited a number of volumes, including The Political Resurgence of the Military in Southeast Asia (Routledge, 2011).
  • Richard Robison is Professor Emeritus at Murdoch University and a former Director of its Asia Research Centre. His research is focused on the political economy of Indonesia and, more generally, the politics of markets and ideologies of neoliberalism. Among his publications are Indonesia: The Rise of Capital (Allen and Unwin, 1986) and Reorganising Power in Indonesia: The Politics of Oligarchy in an Age of Markets (Routledge, 2004, with Vedi Hadiz). He has published widely in leading journals, including World Politics, World Development, New Political Economy, Pacific Review, Journal of Development Studies, and Indonesia.
  • Jeffrey A. Winters is a Professor in the Department of Politics and the founding Director of the Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS) program at Northwestern University. He is also the founder and chair of the Board of Trustees of the Indonesian Scholarship and Research Support Foundation (ISRSF) in Jakarta. Winters studies oligarchs and elites in comparative perspective. His most recent book, Oligarchy (Cambridge, 2011), received the 2012 APSA Luebbert Award for the best book in comparative politics.


At long last, leading experts on Indonesian politics are arguing with each other again. At the heart of this new debate is the importance of material inequality and extreme wealth concentration in shaping the character of Indonesian politics. Beyond Oligarchy collects a series of first-rate essays that both express the power and explore the limitations of analyses that portray the fusion of wealth and domination as the defining deficiency of Indonesian democracy. In so doing, volume coeditors Michele Ford and Thomas Pepinsky boldly break down conventional barriers to scholarly conversations about the most pressing issues and developments in Indonesian political life. Beyond Oligarchy definitively sets a new tone—and arguably sets a new standard—for the study of Indonesian politics after Suharto.—Dan Slater, University of Chicago, author of Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia.

A brilliant and very useful collection of articles in which advocates of the major theses in Australian and American scholarship on Indonesian democratization both present and reflect on their focus on oligarchic versus liberal and plural tendencies. A must-read also in wider circles and for those who try alternative perspectives.— Olle Törnquist, Professor of Political Science and Development Research, University of Oslo


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