State’s Labels and the Challenges of Nation-State Building in the Decentralized Politics in Indonesia

David Efendi, Achmad Nurmandi, Agustiyara Agustiyara


This paper argues that the Indonesian state’s labels are key challenges for Indonesia as a nation-state. In response to questions on whether Indonesia should be categorized as a successful or a failed nation-state, this article provides an explanation of how the country experienced the transition from colonial to independent state, transition to peace after the dual ‘revolutions’ of 1965 and 1998, transition from centralized ‘to decentralized ‘sovereignty’ and from authoritarian regime to democratic state. In this essay, therefore, I have decided to use historical evidence to address on going public and scholarly debates about the form of the Indonesian state in the democracy era which is a confrontation between Islamic- conservatism and secular-liberalism. To understand Indonesia as a contemporary state, I make reference to Benedict Anderson’s concepts of imagined community, power, and responsibility in the post-9/11 era of international threats. Finally, of a number of challenges to Indonesian nation-state building, the most pressing is the emergence of ethnic and religious conflicts, and separatism caused by domestic factors in the failure of economic development and the lack of democratic governance. Thus, the label of Indonesia as a multicultural state is questionable.

Keywords: Pancasila, Islamic law, international threat, nation- building, democratic governance, sovereignty

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