The Limits of Oligarchy

by indonotes

Very interesting review of Jeffrey Winter’s new book Oligarchy by Marcus Meitzner in Inside Indonesia this week. A major argument of the review is that the term oligarchy has some quite serious limitations when used to describe Indonesian politics.

Treating oligarchs as ‘actors who command and control massive concentrations of material resources that can be employed to defend or enhance their personal wealth and exclusive social position’, one can certainly think of examples (Aburizal Bakrie, Prabowo Subianto and Jusuf Kalla spring to mind). But there is more to Indonesian politics than this. Even the examples above pose complications. As detailed in a previous post, Prabowo’s has combined material resources with military connections, populist appeals and some unexpected alliances. Then there is the issue of how these national-level figures link up with local bosses, Islamic groups, labour unions and NGOs.