Capitalism and Indonesia’s Islamic Militia

Interest in the rise of Islamic movements of all kinds has attracted considerable attention. In the country with the world’s largest Islamic population, movements, militia and gangs have long had an influence on politics, from colonial times to the present.

In “Islamic Militias and Capitalist Development in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia” (DOI: 0.1080/00472336.2017.1336564), Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir of LabSosio, Sociological Research Centre, University of Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia and the Department of Sociology, State University of Jakarta, Jakarta, Indonesia, traces some of this history. He seeks to present a way of looking at Islamic militia in the context of post-authoritarian and capitalist Indonesia.

His abstract states:

This article examines the emergence of Islamic militias that are often involved in political gangsterism in post-authoritarian Indonesia. It is argued that these groups are an outcome of the complex structural changes accompanying state formation in the context of capitalist development, instead of the product of a weak state or because of decentralisation of power and authority in the democratic context. Their existence is intricately related to the way the state organises institutions of coercion according to specific exigencies. In addition, these militias are an element of the rise of Islamic identity politics following the fall of Soeharto. The approach advanced here contrasts with two dominant approaches: an institutionalist approach that emphasises a lack of state capacity and the anthropology of the state approach that draws on Migdal’s state-in-society approach, which underlines the fragmentation of authority as the condition for the emergence of militias. It is shown that such groups could exist in a “weak” state and in a “strong” state, and in decentralised and centralised settings.

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