Problems of violent youth groups have escalated in Indonesia, following economic recession, unemployment, and weakened state institutions. Young people have been hit by the lack of income and broken expectations. In consequence, youth groups emerge and arrange for members' economic revenue as well as identity creation and confidence. Religion in some cases is used to legitimize violence and to strengthen the boldness of group members. The paper offers a brief overview of gangster (preman) traditions in Indonesia. Empirical findings on violent youth groups in the two selected provinces are presented within a multi-factor analytical framework, where the need for income and identity strengthening, political élite interests, and the lack of law enforcement contribute to explaining criminal and vigilante violence. Interviews with leaders and members of movements engaged in violent actions offer insights into a problem that threatens national security and control.


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pp. 110-138
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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