The Surprising Democratic Behemoth: Indonesia in Comparative Asian Perspective

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    Indonesia stands out as one of the most successful cases of democratic transformation in Asia, a continent that has been, with several notable exceptions, generally resistant to democratic change over the last three decades. Taking its cue from other Asian democracies, this article considers the degree to which economic modernization and ethnic factors might account for Indonesia's relative democratic success. With regard to both, it is proposed that a key factor has been the failure of Indonesia's political cleavage structure to express social conflicts that might undermine democracy. Instead, Indonesia's democratic model has been based on an inclusionary elite settlement in which powerful political and economic actors have gained a stake in the system, largely through access to patronage. This settlement has consolidated Indonesian democracy, but it has also generated costs that have been borne by relatively disempowered groups, reflected in continuing economic and gender inequality.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)889-902
    JournalJournal of Asian Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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