Two Decades of Ideological Contestation in Indonesia: From Democratic Cosmopolitanism to Religious Nationalism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)
241 Downloads (Pure)


This article surveys ideological developments in Indonesia over the
past two decades, tracing a shift in the ideological centre of
gravity from the embrace of democratic norms in the immediate
post Suharto period towards a conservative and inward-looking
religious nationalism. Several reasons are identified for this shift,
including the failure of reformers to adequately deal with the
legacy of Suharto’s Pancasila indoctrination project and the success
of conservative New Order elites in regaining control of the
democratic process after 2001. Attention is given to the concessions
made to Islamist interests under President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono, which gave conservative Islam an unprecedented
level of power and legitimacy. Of special importance here was
the Constitutional Court’s validation of the blasphemy law, helping
transform Indonesia into an overtly religious state and pave the
way for greater state involvement in enforcing moral norms based
both on Islamic values and a conservative reading of indigenous
culture. The article also highlights the success of Prabowo
Subianto’s populist authoritarian movement in linking with sectarian
groups, prompting President Joko Widodo to adopt an increasingly
authoritarian and xenophobic agenda, leaving little space for
the public defence of secular law, pluralism, democracy and
human rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-733
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Issue number5
Early online date8 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Two Decades of Ideological Contestation in Indonesia: From Democratic Cosmopolitanism to Religious Nationalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this