World Politics

Research Article

Patrimonialism and Military Rule in Indonesia

Harold Croucha1*

a1 National University


Political scientists have recently turned to the Weberian concept of patrimonialism to explain political stability in some Third-World states. Indonesia during the Guided Democracy period is an example of a regime with strong patrimonial characteristics, although its collapse canot be explained in patrimonial terms. The New Order regime has sought to consolidate its power in patrimonial style. Efforts have been made to de-politicize the masses while confining political competition to non-ideological jockeying for power within the elite. However, the New Order's dependence on economic development to obtain support from key groups outside the military elite has tended to push the regime toward increasing regularization and bureaucratization and growing conflict within the military elite. Moreover, the depoliticization drive may not be effective in the long run. In these circumstances, the patrimonial distribution of the spoils of office as a means of maintaining political stability is likely to be increasingly supported by direct repression.

Harold Crouch is Lecturer in Political Science at the National University of Malaysia. He is the author of Trade Unions and Politics in India (1966) and The Army and Politics in Indonesia (1978). He is at present studying political change in Southeast Asia.

* This article is based on a paper presented to the Seventh Conference of the International Association of Historians of Asia, held in Bangkok in August 1977. I am grateful to Herbert Feith for his comments and suggestions.