Continuity and Change

The Changing contours of Organized Violence in Post-New Order Indonesia

Author: Ian Douglas Wilson

Abstract:

This article examines the changing nature of organized violence in post-New Order Indonesia. The New Order regime, which ended with the overthrow of Suharto in 1998, employed violence as a central strategy for maintaining political control, both through the state apparatus and via state proxies: criminal and paramilitary groups acting in the state's behalf. In effect, violence and criminality were normalized as state practice. The collapse of the New Order and the resulting fragmentation of its patronage networks have prompted a decline in state-sponsored violence, but at the same time the number of non-state groups employing violence and intimidation as a political, social, and economic strategy has increased. This article looks at this phenomenon of the “democratization” and privatization of organized violence in post-New Order Indonesia via detailed case studies of a number of paramilitary and vigilante groups. While operating in a manner similar to organized crime gangs, each group articulates an ideology that legitimizes the use of force via appeals to ethnicity, class, and religious affiliation. Violence is also justified as an act of necessary rectification rather than direct opposition, in a situation where the state is considered to have failed in providing fundamentals such as security, justice, and employment.
Countries: Indonesia

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