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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: January 2010

3 - Authoritarian Support Coalitions: Comparing Indonesia and Malaysia


This chapter shows the development and logic of the different coalitions supporting authoritarian regimes in Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia's New Order rested on an alliance between the military and a small coterie of ethnic Chinese Indonesian entrepreneurs. Malaysia's Barisan Nasional coalition depended on (and still continues to depend on) an alliance between the Malay masses and a class of Malay entrepreneurs. These systems were stable and predictable. Each regime used largely informal exchange relationships to regularize mutual reward for leaders and supporters and also to systematize the threat of repression and violence for members of the polity outside of the support coalition. This stability enabled each regime to engineer rapid economic growth at rates nearly unparalleled in the developing world while embedding these support coalitions directly into the apparatus of political rule.

In the terms of the model of an economy introduced in Chapter 2, Indonesia's coalition was one between mobile and fixed capital, whereas Malaysia's coalition is one between fixed capital and labor. The broad actor categories – mobile capital, fixed capital, and labor – are theoretical ideal types, but in this chapter I link each ideal type to a concrete group with clear political allegiances. These mappings reveal the importance of the country-specific histories in understanding political coalitions and their economic interests. In the case of Malaysia, for instance, the regime depends not on “labor” writ large but specifically on the unorganized Malay masses. In Indonesia, fixed capital comprised both military-linked businesses and new pribumi (roughly, “indigenous”) entrepreneurs.

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