To Nation by Revolution: Indonesia in the 20th Century

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The twelve chapters of this book all derive from the reflections of a prominent historian on the nature of modern Indonesian history, over a 40-year time span. A central thread running through the book is the importance of the fact that Indonesia entered the modern community of nation-states through political revolution. This revolution has often been denied or downplayed as a failure because it did not have a communist outcome like those of China and Vietnam. A much better analogy is the French revolution – a profound breaking with and discrediting of the ancien regime but without the guiding hand of a disciplined party intent on power. Like other revolutions, it demanded a huge price in violence, human suffering, and the loss of cultural traditions; like them too, it offered a glittering prize. The prize turned out not to be the freedom and equality of which the revolutionaries had dreamt, but a previously inconceivable unity enforced by a state of a completely new kind. The Faustian bargain in by which Indonesia was created in the 1940s is at the heart of this book.
 

All the chapters save one have been revised and updated for this publication, with the injection of some additional optimism called for by post-1998 democracy. The exception is the earliest paper, from 1967, on the paroxysm of violence that punctuated Indonesia’s independent history from 1965-1966. This piece has been left unchanged as a document in the early quest for understanding of those horrific events.

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The twelve chapters of this book all derive from the reflections of a prominent historian on the nature of modern Indonesian history, over a 40-year time span. A central thread running through the book is the importance of the fact that Indonesia entered the modern community of nation-states through political revolution. This revolution has often been denied or downplayed as a failure because it did not have a communist outcome like those of China and Vietnam. A much better analogy is the French revolution – a profound breaking with and discrediting of the ancien regime but without the guiding hand of a disciplined party intent on power. Like other revolutions, it demanded a huge price in violence, human suffering, and the loss of cultural traditions; like them too, it offered a glittering prize. The prize turned out not to be the freedom and equality of which the revolutionaries had dreamt, but a previously inconceivable unity enforced by a state of a completely new kind. The Faustian bargain in by which Indonesia was created in the 1940s is at the heart of this book.
 

All the chapters save one have been revised and updated for this publication, with the injection of some additional optimism called for by post-1998 democracy. The exception is the earliest paper, from 1967, on the paroxysm of violence that punctuated Indonesia’s independent history from 1965-1966. This piece has been left unchanged as a document in the early quest for understanding of those horrific events.

 

Publisher: National University of Singapore Press

Paperback

2011

ISBN: 9789971695354