Review: Democratising Indonesia
Published: Mar 16, 2008

Mikaela Nyman

Copenhagen, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies ISBN 8791114829 A$35.00

Mikaela Nyman’s, Democratising Indonesia: The Challenges of Civil Society in the Era of Reformasi analyses the participation of civil society actors in post-Suharto Indonesia, questioning their contribution to democratic reform and how this role may change in the future. Through interviews with key members of the student, women’s and labour movements, and reference to civil society and social movement theory, Nyman claims that civil society actors are essential in pressuring governments for democratic reform. Offering a retrospective account of events since 1998, Nyman clearly identifies key civil society actors, namely: students, women and labour unions and organisations, who have worked both collectively and individually to pressure for democratic change. Not only does Nyman analyse how each group has contributed to democratisation since reformasi, she also questions the ways in which these actors have accessed a previously limited political space, and transformed it into a public space, open to new voices and criticisms.

At times the role of these actors appears somewhat generalised; however, Nyman is careful to mention that ‘never at any time was there a homogenous student, women’s or labour movement’, (p 157) instead analysing these movements in terms of their collaboration and contribution to democratic reform. Nyman also cautions that there must be greater collaboration and a development of ‘inter-class alliances’ for an Indonesian civil society to succeed in the future.

According to Nyman, Indonesian civil society actors are in a powerful position not only to effect meaningful social change themselves, but also to pressure governments for legislative reform, thus making them invaluable agents in the ongoing process of Indonesian democratic reform.     ii

Reviewed by Elena Williams (elewilliams@gmail.com )



Inside Indonesia 91: Jan-Mar 2008