Organicism in Indonesian Political Thought

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


Organicism, or the notion that political and legal institutions should reflect communalistic values embedded in “traditional culture,” has played a significant part in Indonesia’s modern history. This chapter begins with a brief overview of organicism as a concept, linking it to German theories of the Volksgeist. It then examines the study of organicism in Indonesia and its expression in the state ideology of Pancasila, arguing that to understand it primarily in culturalist terms overlooks the profound extent to which it developed in conversation with Western ideas of the East. Organicism found expression in Indonesian constitutional thinking, in conservative political party programs, in the corporatist structures of political representation between the 1960s and the 1990s, and in the ideology of Soeharto’s New Order regime. In this sense, it foreshadows the exceptionalist “Asian values” rhetoric espoused by political leaders in Singapore and Malaysia in the 1990s. The conclusion notes that while each manifestation of organicism will be different, there are common features that enable comparison across cultures and movements, including right-wing nationalist movements currently on the rise in the West.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory
EditorsMegan Thomas, Murad Idris, Liegh Jenco
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2019


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