chapter  2
25 Pages

An uneasy correlation: (un)civil society and democracy

In dealing with civil society, the first thing that stands out is the “fuzziness of the term” (Hall 1995a: 2) itself and the variety of definitions and theories around the concept of civil society, stemming from its long history in Western political thought and practice, as well as the different theoretical implications drawn

from the concept. Civil society can be understood as a historical phenomenon or an analytical concept, as this chapter will show. Since the late 1980s, civil society and its actors have once again gained

widespread attention and importance, in connection with the tumbling of many former socialist regimes in the Eastern bloc as well as authoritarian regimes in Latin America, Asia, and Southeast Asia. The works of Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato, Larry Diamond, Juan José Linz and Seymour Martin Lipset, John Keane, Robert Putnam, Jeff Haynes, Guillermo O’Donnell, and Philippe C. Schmitter have been trendsetters in the generation of theories about the role and function civil society has played in these transition processes. Indeed, today most countries of the so-called ‘Third Wave of Democratization’ have developed more or less democratic institutional structures and governments. However, writers such as Muthiah Alagappa, Vedi R. Hadiz, Petr Kopecky and Cas Mudde, Laurence Whitehead, Leigh A. Payne, P. Ramasamy, and Ian Douglas Wilson, to name just a few, point out the often ambivalent character of civil society in young democracies. Anders Uhlin’s book Indonesia and the ThirdWave of Democratization, Philip Eldridge’s Non-government organizations and democratic participation in Indonesia, Muhammad A.S. Hikam’s study Demokrasi dan Civil Society and his various articles on civil society in Indonesia, are some of the most substantial contributions on Indonesia’s civil society and have become very important for my own work on the subject. However, their analysis does not go beyond the turning point in Indonesia’s modern history: the fall of Suharto in 1998. Another valuable resource for the present work has been Edward Aspinall’s Opposing Suharto, which focuses primarily on civil society prior to Suharto’s fall, as it describes how opposition groups challenged the authoritarian regime. Bob Hadiwinata’s book The Politics of NGOs in Indonesia, deals with the more recent developments after 1998, concentrating, however, on the socalled ‘good’ civil society organizations only. The anthology Mencari Akar Kultural Civil Society di Indonesia edited by Burhanuddin and published by the Indonesian Institute for Civil Society (INCIS) contains many noteworthy articles from the Indonesian perspective on the development of civil society post-1998. Another informative Indonesian compilation was Indonesia’s PostSuharto Democracy Movement, published by DEMOS in Jakarta. In addition to the above-mentioned sources and numerous other books, the latest academic working papers or essays published in various political science magazines, newspaper sources, online publications, and other material acquired during my research in Indonesia have been used. This work aims at scrutinizing the actors of Indonesia’s civil society. A new

term, called USO (uncivil society organization), will be introduced here to distinguish certain elements of civil society from others that are either conducive to democracy or do not play any political role. In doing so, my research aims at further enriching the literature on post-transition societies and the crucial role that civil society plays in turning the scale. Which groups, with what kind of ideology, foster democratic values and structures in

Indonesia, and why? And which segments of Indonesia’s civil society represent an obstacle to democratic consolidation? In order to answer these questions, a revised categorization of Indonesia’s civil society groups became necessary. I thus started by drawing on Haynes’s work entitled Democracy and Civil Society in the Third World. Politics and New Political Movements, as well as Anders Uhlin’s Indonesia and The Third Wave of Democratization. It soon became apparent that neither approach did sufficient justice to Indonesia’s extremely diverse society, which is mirrored in its manifold civil groups and organizations. Uhlin and Haynes both try to categorize Indonesia’s politically active society, coming from different points of view: Jeff Haynes talks about ‘action groups’ while Uhlin’s classification distinguishes ‘actors of democratization’ and their respective discourses on democracy/democratization only. The classification used in this study aims to take into account the often-contradictory roles and impacts of the various forms of Indonesia’s civil society.1