Indonesian labour

In a new book review Olle Törnquist of the Department of Political Science at the University of Oslo looks at Labor and Politics in Indonesia by Teri L. Caraway and Michele Ford and published by Cambridge University Press.

Under Suharto’s New Order, “there was murder and repression and the few remaining unions were depoliticised and subordinated to the authoritarian regime” and there were some hopes for a renaissance after he was sent packing in 1998.

But small hopes were shattered: “Most scholars concluded that labour organisations were just as weak and irrelevant as the politically marginalised pro-democrats in civil society, except when of use to dominant elites and oligarchs.”

Caraway and Ford provide an alternative, “contribut[ing] a pioneering account of union resurgence.” With decentralisation, workers contributed to wage determination and provided support to parties and politicians. Törnquist concludes that:

Caraway and Ford’s book about the major unions’ engagement in politics will be an indispensable and standard work in its field and a vital source of knowledge for everyone interested in the wider remaining issues.

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