Development ideology in Indonesia

Paul Gellert of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has a new paper available at the JCA website.

Titled “Optimism and Education: The New Ideology of Development in Indonesia,” Gellert’s paper, based on ethnographic field research, argues that there is a new ideology of development in Indonesia that is cosmopolitan, nostalgic and individualist.

Using a historical sociological perspective, Gellert examines the nationalist period of anti-colonial struggle, the state developmentalist period of Soeharto’s New Order, and the neo-liberal period since 1998.

As the abstract states:

Two interrelated arguments are made. First, the ideology of development in Indonesia has changed from earlier nationalist understandings of Pancasila to a cosmopolitan neoliberal ideology based in a nostalgic nationalism. Second, a modernist Islamic perspective on secularism and Islam both supports and is supported by this ideological shift. These arguments are illuminated through two examples of the advance of cosmopolitan neoliberal ideology: optimism and education. Optimism is focused on individual integrity to redress Indonesia’s problems with corruption. Education is offered by optimists as the escalator to development. Empirically, the Indonesia Mengajar programme of sending young university graduates to teach elementary school in remote parts of the country is examined for its neo-modernisationist assumptions. The article concludes that this dominant ideology abandons earlier solidaristic forms of nationalism and holds little hope for addressing the vast structural inequalities in Indonesia.

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