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Reviewed by:
  • Indonesian Law by Tim Lindsey and Simon Butt
  • Jeremy J. Kingsley (bio)
Tim Lindsey and Simon Butt. Indonesian Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. 576 pp.

A book titled Indonesian Law at first glance suggests an ambitious undertaking. Even though I know Tim Lindsey and Simon Butt are both knowledgeable and leading scholars of Indonesian law, at the outset I was concerned about overreach in terms of the book's scope. With these words of caution, it is good to be proven wrong. As soon as one opens this book it is hard not to recognize the breadth, and importantly, depth, of this publication.

Essentially, it is a remarkably fine reference book outlining Indonesian law. It provides a framework for understanding and learning the broad parameters of Indonesia's substantive law and legal institutions. This will be a useful resource for students, legal professionals, and scholars of Indonesian law, and acts as a sound starting point to contextualize the Indonesian legal system and its impact on Indonesian society.

Having studied Indonesian law and its legal culture for over a decade, I still found this text to be enlightening and a rich source of information on the Indonesian legal system. It provides a clear outline of substantive Indonesian law and the many issues affecting this civil law jurisdiction. The text is organized into five parts (Legal System, Land Law, Criminal Law, Commercial Law, and Private Law) and then expounded through twenty-two chapters that give life to these larger legal categories. This structure helps to arrange the substantive discussions in a coherent and straightforward manner.

The one criticism of this book that I would make is that it could be studied in a decontextualized manner. Indonesian legal culture(s) and socio-political affairs are largely skirted over. The editorial reason for this choice is understandable in that it is a reference book of the Indonesian legal system and laws. However, some readers may inadvertently overlook context and, if not careful, read their own assumptions about law and its practice into the Indonesian situation. It would, therefore, be useful to read this book alongside other leading texts on Indonesia law.1

Even with this criticism, it is hard not to recognize that this book makes an outstanding contribution to our understanding of Indonesia's legal system. It is a must-read reference for all scholars and professionals working in or learning about Indonesia … not just legal scholars. Indonesian Law contextualizes the functioning and activity of law and statecraft in a comprehensive and authoritative manner.

The utility of this book comes from allowing scholars, students, and professionals to understand the structures and boundaries and, therefore, limitations of Indonesian [End Page 123] law. It is not about reading this cover-to-cover. Rather, this reference book has particular sections that no doubt are vital to scholars engaged in different aspects of Indonesian political, media commentary, digital affairs, economic studies, and cultural life. It is easy to look at the deficiencies of Indonesian law and therefore avoid treating it with due respect and recognition. This book should put to rest such negative considerations and, consequently, provides a useful resource to assist people to engage with and recognize the importance and limitations of the Indonesian legal system and its relevance to their interests. [End Page 124]

Jeremy J. Kingsley

Jeremy J. Kingsley is a senior lecturer and director of Swinburne Law School's Indonesia Law, Governance, and Culture Program.


1. For instance, see: Tim Lindsey, ed., Indonesia: Law and Society (Annandale: Federation Press, 2008); and Sebastiaan Pompe, The Indonesian Supreme Court: A Study of Institutional Collapse (Ithaca: Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2005).



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pp. 123-124
Launched on MUSE
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