(De)centralization and the Missing Middle in Indonesia and Malaysia
Abstract

Abstract:

Indonesia and Malaysia have been characterized by powerful, centralized state apparatuses and "soft authoritarianism". However, over the last two decades, Indonesia has implemented far-reaching political reforms and embarked on a process of decentralization, whereas Malaysia's political context has remained static, and it has in fact deepened processes of centralization. Notwithstanding this difference, in both cases, the rescaling of state power has occurred at the expense of the meso level — provinces in Indonesia and states in Malaysia. Prevailing conceptualizations of decentralization miss this commonality, as they focus uniquely on the flow of resources and responsibilities away from central governments. Beyond indicating a need for us to sharpen the conceptual tools used in the study of decentralization, this pattern may also tell us something about the nature of state power in post-colonial countries.