chapter  8
The failure of state ideology in Indonesia: the rise and demise of
Pages 14

For over half a century ‘Pancasila’, or the Five Principles,1 remained a contested concept in Indonesia, in spite of its closest association with the statist and developmentalist ideas that underpinned the stifling and oppressive long rule of Soeharto’s New Order. It is argued here that the contest primarily had to do with competing interests that variously claimed to be heirs of the legacy of Indonesia’s nationalist revolution. Thus, the ascendance, and near-hegemony, of conservative and reactionary interpretations of Pancasila was linked to the victory in the mid-1960s of a coalition of interests led by the army over the potentially fundamental challenge posed by the presence of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and other radical populist forces. Apart from the army, this coalition embraced a variety of urban and rural petty bourgeois interests threatened by the agitation of the communists, and which ultimately consented to the rule of an authoritarian state and its corps of officials. In the absence of a viable national bourgeoisie and the small size of the urban middle class, this allowed the New Order to deploy the notion that the state should intervene in the market in the national interest. Furthermore, it was frequently able to represent politically connected private interests as identical to the national interest principally defined in terms of the safeguarding of order and stability – in turn, viewed as essential to successful material development.