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To Nation by Revolution

Indonesia in the 20th Century

Anthony Reid

Publication Year: 2011

The 12 chapters of this book present the reflections of a prominent historian on the nature of modern Indonesian history, over a 40-year time span. A central thread running through the book is the importance of the fact that Indonesia entered the modern community of nation-states through political revolution. This revolution has often been denied or downplayed as a failure because it did not have a communist outcome like those of China and Vietnam. A much better analogy is the French Revolution - a profound breaking with and discrediting of the ancien régime but without the guiding hand of a disciplined party intent on power. Like other revolutions, it demanded a huge price in violence, human suffering, and the loss of cultural traditions; like them too, it offered a glittering prize. The prize turned out not to be the freedom and equality of which the revolutionaries had dreamt, but a previously inconceivable unity enforced by a state of a completely new kind. The Faustian bargain by which Indonesia was created in the 1940s is at the heart of this book. All the chapters save one have been updated for this publication, with the injection of some additional optimism called for by post-1998 democracy. The exception is the earliest paper, from 1967, on the paroxysm of violence that punctuated Indonesia's independent history from 1965-1966. This piece has been left unchanged a document in the early quest for understanding of those horrific events.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vi-vii

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pp. viii-ix

Political histories have already been written of Indonesia’s turbulent 20th century of national creation. This book is not a rival of such studies, and does not aim for comprehensiveness, although the first chapter provides an overview of the political process. Rather, it is a collection of studies of particular themes that have been...


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pp. x-xi

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Chapter 1. Indonesia: Revolution without Socialism

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pp. 1-44

Two days earlier, the proclamation had been the subject of an angry exchange between two generations of nationalists. The Japanese had surrendered to the Allies on 14 August, just too soon to allow the implementation of their last-minute preparations to grant “independence” to Indonesia. Sukarno and his then colleague...

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Chapter 2. The Late Death of Slavery

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pp. 45-62

Slavery in Southeast Asia is not a remote historical phenomenon. Laws certainly have prohibited private ownership of persons for a century or more, yet in more remote hills and islands of the region, one still encounters people who admit to being slaves or the children of slaves. Much more widespread are people who work...

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Chapter 3. From Betel to Tobacco: The Modern Transformation

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pp. 63-83

Southeast Asians appear to have been extensive users of mild narcotics throughout their recorded history. For all but the past century of this history, the betel quid, composed of areca nut, betel leaves, and lime, was the characteristic relaxant central to the agreeable social interaction that Southeast Asians valued. For thousands...

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Chapter 4. Chains of Silver, Chains of Steel: Forcing Politics on Geography

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pp. 84-104

Batavia rose to prominence in the archipelago in the period 1650–1750 in the same way as earlier centres since Sriwijaya — with symbolic political primacy following commercial dominance. Since 1800, however, Batavia/Jakarta has had to fight an uphill battle against market economic forces in order to counter the influence of...

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Chapter 5. Merdeka: The Indonesian Key to Freedom

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pp. 105-122

Suharto’s Indonesia was low on the league tables for the practice of political and civic freedoms, and its government did not put these high on its list of national priorities. Human rights did become an issue in the post- Suharto reform era from 1998, but it was conservatives who were more likely to cite Indonesian tradition...

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Chapter 6. The Quest for an Indonesian Past

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pp. 123-150

Perceptions of the future and the past tend to be interdependent; particularly for emergent nationalisms as they reassess their national destiny. Indonesian nationalism was however slower than most in developing this reassessment into a complete history. Not until the period of Japanese military rule did a substantial national...

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Chapter 7. The Japanese Impact: From Briefcase to Samurai Sword

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pp. 151-168

The role of the Japanese in the creation of modern Indonesia long remained an emotive question, particularly for those who were involved in the events. Since the Dutch attacked the infant Indonesian Republic in 1945 as a Japanese creation, nationalists were initially at pains to show the world that they had no debts...

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Chapter 8. The Revolution in Regional Perspective

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pp. 169-183

It is frequently complained that an excessive focus on the national level has distorted our understanding of the Indonesian revolution, as of most things Indonesian.1 Yet a brief survey of the academic research completed reveals that regional studies have been the dominant theme. As against the detailed studies of South Sulawesi...

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Chapter 9. Gestapu: A Hesitant Assessment, 1967

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pp. 184-192

Even two years after the first upheaval [i.e. 1967],1 it is still almost impossible for anyone to view with complete objectivity the trauma which shook Indonesia on and after the night of September 30, 1965. Among Indonesians, all are involved; there are few who have not felt their jobs, their property, or their...

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Chapter 10. “Asian Tradition” and Indonesian Politics: The One and the Many

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pp. 193-207

For a period in the 1990s, the dichotomy of East and West returned to the political and academic agenda. A century earlier, partly in response to a strong strain of European thought essentialising “Asia” or “the Orient” as inherently despotic or hierarchic, the first wave of Asianism had celebrated Okakura’s famous...

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Chapter 11. Why Not Federalism?

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pp. 208-228

Indonesia and China are the only very large, multi-ethnic states to have rejected the federal model in favour of a unitary state. This chapter will investigate, for the Indonesian case, the hypothesis that the revolutionary path by which these and other countries arrived at modern nation-statedom is the most important...

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Chapter 12. Chinese and the State: The Jewish Analogy

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pp. 229-264

Periods of rapid economic expansion and relatively weak government tend to widen the differences between individuals and social groups. Risk takers and innovators are rewarded more than most, sometimes by their ability to enter the yawning gap between the laws and values of an older era and the economic needs...


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pp. 265-310


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pp. 311-314


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pp. 315-341


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pp. 342-348

E-ISBN-13: 9789971695835
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695354

Page Count: 358
Illustrations: 11 images
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: New