chapter  7
50 Pages

The rise of uncivil society

Despite the establishment of a new regime in Indonesia after 1998 with ‘democratic’ institutions like parliaments, elections, and parties, the Indonesian case teaches us that democratic change is not necessarily a linear process and that good governance and the emergence of a liberal democracy depend on more factors than just the crafting of the right kind of democratic institutions. Like other multi-ethnic states in transition, Indonesia’s post-authoritarian society resembles the well-known Pandora’s box suddenly opened. Long-suppressed aspirations, ideologies, religious dogmas, and political agendas finally found ways to be expressed through political parties and inside the public realm of civil society. Needless to say, not all of them are distinguished by a moderate, tolerant, and liberal worldview. The differentiation into civil and uncivil society reveals that not all ‘civic engagement’ is conducive to democracy per se and that it can have various goals and impacts. Some of the radical ethnic and religious groups pose a threat to democracy by disregarding basic civil rights such as religious freedom and minority rights. Vigilantes and civil militias perform functions that the state institutions fail to provide. Others use brute force to achieve their political or ideological goals. In this chapter, some of the ‘uncivil’ elements of Indonesia’s civil society

will be analyzed and questions will be answered, such as:

What impact do these groups and their activities have on civil society in general?