New Pespectives on How Civil Society Negotiates with the State

Endy Saputro

The downfall of the Suharto regime has symbolized the return of civic authority. It has increasingly punctuated by the implementation of decentralization of power at the local level. One striking evidence is the implementation of Pemilukada (local election), for which even though on the one hand is a result of the new democracy in Indonesia, yet on the other hand  it offer expensive “cost” and hardly success. According to Gerry van Klinken and Joshua Barker (2009), this phenomenon asserts that power is no longer centered on the state, but also regional, or even civil. They recommend that analysis of the state in post-Suharto era should no longer focus on institutions, but how the power-area and authorities outside the state operates. Modifying Joel S. Migdal’s term (2001), Indonesia is now entering the era of “state in Society”.

Pluralisme Kewargaan: Arah Baru Politik Keragaman di Indonesia (Civic Pluralism: New Directions of Politics of Diversity in Indonesia) seeks to shows some real efforts discussing current issues related to negotiations of state discourses in society. This book not only offers a new concept of how to analyze society negotiates the state, but provides also several discouse domains in which the public authority actually plays important role in processing and managing diversity. Written by some academics-cum-activists, make this book finds its significant, both for academic discussion and debate as well as social guides for policy makers.

This book was written in the context of raising social turmoil based religion occurred in Post-Suharto era. First, the birth of the new authorities, particularly in the fields of mass-organization based religion, in the public-scape. Although the society does not enthusiast to the new authorities, but its power will potentially defeat the official authorities, namely police. Some of the new authorities are derived, directly or not, from Islamic organizations. Second, the rise of regional rules-based shari’a in some areas in Indonesia. This regulation emerges as the impact of a shift in public policy from the state-authorities to the regional one. Indeed, the social problem raise up when these main background along with the dominant majority of the Islamic society play identity politics that can lead acts of anarchic conflict.

Civic pluralism, what it is? Rather than finding the definition, analyzing elements of the concept  is more important. First, the politics of recognition; recognizing the other as a person/ group in equal position. This recognition is not a celebration of the diversity, yet along with the other try to solve the problem related to public in equal dialogue. Through the politics of recognition, especially, the policy makers have not been expected to release a policy based on certain group interest, conversely, based on the principle of equality. Second, politics of representation; participating and competing in a fair and equal position in the making of public policies by all citizens. Two of these “politics” could take place whether at the grassroots level as well as elite politics. Third, the politics of redistribution, distributing equal access towards political economic of needs for all citizens. In the politics of redistribution, the state-government has obligated eliminate the corporations of certain groups-society in capitalizing access for gaining scarcity.

Can equality be realized without liberalism? This book offers an article which discuss a transformative accommodation, a perspective reproduced by Ayelet Schachar. Using  transformative accommodation is trying to accomplish civic pluralism with three requirements.  First, elucidating the problems into some part of problems which seemingly separable, but actually connected and related each other. Second, “no monopoly rule”, no single groups hold the power over the other. Third, the availability of alternative solutions if the solutions offered, especially from the government, does not give solution (pp. 81-82).

One of the authors in this book provide an example of applying these three principles in the case of agunah (page 82), “In the case of agunah example, if ex-husband does not want to get (letter / greeting formal Jewish religious to divorce), while the wife wants to get married again in Jewish tradition, transformative accommodation provide a way out with the option to quit the group in this case and ask for state aid as the holder as a holder of some authority over the issue of this marriage.” From this reason, obviously transformative accommodation does not provide a radical solution to the problems, but rather provide a moderate transformative solution.

Another author offers an alternative way of young people experiencing pluralism. Some students from a high school in Magelang, Central Java, was given a forum to conduct dialogue and discuss the making ethnographic film. They shared ideas, and then found a strange idea, about transvestites. By holding camera, the students were experiencing something strange in their experience. They shot realities and, at the same time, appreciate and recognize how a transgender people live and understand this life. When the film was launched, this activity were not only changing the student’s views about transvestites, but also including the attendance who had watched the film.

This activity was to be more potentially media for changing stereotypes and prejudices towards the other. It differ from the ways of the alumni at the same high school indoctrinate the students to conduct some religious practices. They, through some of the students, do Islamization in the schools, such as banning female students to sing during the school annual anniversary. Being a devout Muslim is not a problem, but “imposing” a religion to regulate public affairs would be inviting trouble. To conclude, civic pluralism could be civic agency of state management of diversity.

This book is published as part of Pluralism Knowledge Program run by CRCS since 2008, together with three other academic centers: Center for the Study of Culture and Societ (Bangalore, India), Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (Kampala, Uganda), and Kosmopolis Institute, University for Humanistics (Utrecht, Netherlands), and supported by Hivos (Netherlands). Two monographs under the same program have been published: Politik Ruang Publik Sekolah (The Politics of Public Sphere in Schools), Kontroversi Gereja di Jakarta (The Churches Controversy in Jakarta).

The monographs are available at CRCS, please contact CRCS at or Telephone/Fax: +62 274 544976.


This post is also available in: Indonesian


  1. Resume ini bagus. Saya bisa beli bukunya di mana? Salam dari Kupang

    • admin

      28 July 2015

      Terima kasih, Pak Frederik. Untuk buku ini bisa dibeli di toko buku atau bisa menghubungi langsung pihak penerbit MIzan. Tapi mungkin di toko buku sudah agak susah mendapatkannya karena dicetak tidak begitu banyak oleh Mizan lantaran tidak masuk buku populer.

      Terima kasih.

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