State and the Perpetuation of Inequality in Indonesia

Level of economic inequality in democratic Indonesia is generally higher and increases at a faster rate than during the Suharto’s authoritarian regime. This is a counter intuitive picture because a democratic state is expected to be more responsive to distribute resource accountably. In fact, centralized state processes in social development under New Order regime was dismantled and disaggregated into multifaceted and often contradictory state actions following the transition to democracy. Recent wave of the study of the state accentuates the importance to reify the centrality of state analysis to explain multifarious outcomes. The classical project of Bringing State Back In focuses on the debate addressing state autonomy and capacity in the economic development terrain but have yet comprehensively addressed the role of the state in producing socio-political outcomes such as poverty and inequality. Scholars of inequality, on the other hand, often view the state intervention as a panacea for problems related to inequality without considering the state as the actor behind the perpetuation of inequality.

This panel aims to discuss state processes in producing and maintaining inequality by acknowledging multiplicity of state functions and diverse actors involved within state processes. The organizer invites scholars (at all levels of academic career) who are interested in studying state process and its consequences regarding various forms of inequality to submit their papers. Some key questions addressed in this panel are: 1) Why does the democratic Indonesian state fail to address problems related to inequality? 2) How does the Indonesian state deploy its symbolic and material powers to produce and maintain inequality? 3) How do the relations between various state actors and other forces in society such as market sectors, contentious politics, and civil society in multifarious state processes affect the perpetuation of inequality?

Panel Coordinator:

Rahardhika Utama (Northwestern University)


  1. Understanding the State through Violence [Abdul Mughis Mudhofir]
  2. Discourses on Inequality in Jokowi’s Era [Iqrak Sulhin]
  3. Explaining the Perpetuation of Inequality in Indonesia: How Bureaucratic Clientelism Undermines Redistribution in a Decentralized Democracy [Rahardhika Utama]
  4. Exclusion and marginalization within community participation in Development [Hestu Prahara]
  5. Inequality: Kasus Toraja Sa’dan di Masa Kini [Mira Indiwara Pakan]
  6. Political Identity of a Minority Group: A Study of Noaulu Community Survival Strategy in Negeri Sepa, Maluku Tengah [Abdul Manaf Tubaka]
  7. “The Lighter Our Task, the Heavier our Burden” An Ethnography of Political Dissidence among Punks and Anarchists in Indonesia [Louis Plottel]