Indonesia Betrayed: How Development Fails

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9780824831837: Indonesia Betrayed: How Development Fails

Supporters of neoliberalism claim that free markets lead to economic growth, the creation of a middle class, and the establishment of democratically accountable governments. Critics point to a widening gap between rich and poor as countries compete to win foreign investment, and to the effects on the poor of neoliberal programs that restrict funding for health, education, and welfare. This book offers a ground-level view from Sumatra of the realities behind these debates during the final years of Suharto’s New Order and the beginning of a transition to more democratic government. The author’s wealth of primary data from ten years of interviews and local newspaper reportage (1994–2004) shows how farmers and laborers were dispossessed by both government policies and crony capitalism.

Elizabeth Collins relates the stories of populist efforts in South Sumatra to combat "development" policies responsible for producing extreme poverty and allowing corruption to flourish. She describes how student-led NGOs worked with farmers fighting to retain their livelihoods in the lowland forests of South Sumatra. She reports on a local branch of the Indonesian Environmental Forum as it battled multinational companies and Indonesian conglomerates responsible for damage to the environment; on contract workers protesting exploitation by a company with ties to a Suharto crony; and on systemic corruption under the New Order, which spread throughout all levels of government and into civil society organizations. She examines the sometimes strained relationships between Islamists and human-rights activists, arguing that there is no inherent contradiction between Islam and democratic politics. Collins concludes that for real change to occur, neoliberal capitalism must be recognized as a utopian ideology; democracy, imperfect as it is, offers the best hope for sustainable development in Indonesia.

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From the Back Cover:

"Since the overthrow of the Soeharto regime, we have had a small blizzard of studies on Muslim politics, ethnoreligious violence, and national-level politics in Indonesia. By contrast, we have had fewer of the fine-grained regional studies of economic change and political contestation for which Indonesian studies was renowned in the 1980s. In this fine book, Elizabeth Fuller Collins brings the earlier tradition of rich regional analysis to bear on the processes and pitfalls of the post-Soeharto era in South Sumatra. The case study is important, and the analysis is rich. The result is a work that will be of interest to students of Indonesian studies, neoliberal development, and political transitions, and to the general reader curious about this most important, if still obscure, of Asian giants." --Robert W. Hefner, Boston University

"Indonesia Betrayed is a uniquely intimate analysis of the reformasi movement in the context of the neoliberal project of corporate development. Elizabeth Collins' participatory angle of vision brings a rich and compelling account of the multiple dimensions of political and economic life in Indonesia, spanning the New Order and the reform period since General Suharto's ouster in 1998. Documenting the vitality of the Indonesian democracy movement, Collins provides a rare grass-roots view of global capitalism, its reproduction of inequalities and its corruption of politics, as a basis for deepening the worldwide project of social justice." --Philip McMichael, Cornell University

About the Author:

Elizabeth Fuller Collins teaches in the Department of Classics and World Religions and the Southeast Asian Studies Program at Ohio University.

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Collins, Elizabeth Fuller
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