Country Listing

Indonesia Table of Contents


Modern Political Culture

The major components of Indonesia's modern political culture were derived from two central goals of the New Order government: stability and development. If authority in the Suharto era was based on ABRI's coercive support, the government's legitimacy rested on its success in achieving sociopolitical stability and economic development. Indonesian political culture in the early 1990s primarily reflected nontraditional, nonethnic, and secular values. Urban centered, truly national in its scope, and more materialistically focused, Indonesia's politics in the 1990s were influenced by both domestic and international developments.

Like Islam, Indonesia's modern political culture was not monolithic. In the early 1990s, there was a variety of subcultures: bureaucratic, military, intellectual, commercial, literary, and artistic, each with its own criteria for judging politics, but all directed to the successful operation of the modern political system. Perhaps the two most important modern subcultures were the military and the intellectuals. It was the military subculture that set the tone for the first two decades of the Suharto government, both in terms of its ethos and in the direct participation of military officers at all levels of government and administration. Although increasingly professional in a technical sense, ABRI never lost its conception of itself as the embodiment of the national spirit, standing above the social, ethnic, and religious divisions of the country as a unifying institution. Even though factions existed within ABRI, it exemplified dwifungsi, the special link between soldier and state. ABRI was not above politics, but it was not part of the open political competition. The concerns of academics, writers, and other intellectuals in the early 1990s were different and they were more likely to be influenced by Western political values. It was from these circles that the pressure for democratization came. Their outlet was not political parties but cause-oriented nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), workshops, seminars, rallies, and, occasionally, demonstrations. The government undertook a major effort to subsume all of Indonesia's political cultures, with their different and often incompatible criteria for legitimacy, into a national political culture, an Indonesian culture based on the values set forth in the Pancasila.

Data as of November 1992