New publication: ‘Democracy for sale: Elections, clientelism, and the state in Indonesia’

In the run-up to Indonesia’s forthcoming elections on 17 April, Cornell University Press has published Democracy for Sale: Elections, Clientelism and the State in Indonesia, co-authored by Edward Aspinall (Australian National University) and Ward Berenschot (KNAW-KITLV). Written on the basis of extensive fieldwork and survey research, Democracy for Sale provides an insider account of Indonesia’s democracy. Edward Aspinall and Ward Berenschot assess the informal networks and political strategies that shape access to power and privilege in the messy political environment of contemporary Indonesia.

The book has already been launched in New York (25 March) and London (27 March). On 8 April, the Indonesian version of the book will be launched in Indonesia, with a book launch in the Netherlands taking place at Leiden University, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, at 16:00 hrs on 9 May. Press copies of the book can be obtained via [email protected].

Democracy for Sale
Democracy for Sale provides an on-the-ground account of Indonesia’s democracy. Analyzing election campaigns and behind-the-scenes machinations, it shows how at every level of Indonesian politics informal, personalized networks shadow and infuse formal institutions. Politicians win elections by distributing small-scale projects, cash or goods to voters; they gain the funds they need to campaign by trading contracts, licenses and other favours with business people; and they engage in constant battles with each other and with bureaucrats to wrest control over state resources to fund such efforts. Rather than depending on parties, Indonesian politicians typically rely on ad-hoc, personalized structures called ‘success teams’ to organize their election campaigns. Personal connections – whether based on kinship, friendship, business links, religion or ethnicity – trump party loyalties. Political operatives often effectively auction off their services to the highest bidder. Bureaucrats rather than parties control state resources and are key actors in election campaigns.

Through these arguments and with comparative leverage from political practices in India and Argentina, Democracy for Sale provides compelling evidence of the importance of informal networks and relationships, rather than formal parties and institutions, in contemporary Indonesia. Democracy for Sale employs an innovative framework for comparing clientelistic polities, and draws on a wealth of direct observations of the shadowy world that lies behind formal politics. It shows that we should see informal politics and clientelism not as deviations from normal politics, but as constituent elements of it – in Indonesia, as in much of the rest of the world.

“A painstakingly researched examination of the way Indonesia has become a patronage democracy. . . .  Aspinall and Berenschot’s book shows how money has weakened political parties, ensures that personalities matter more than policy, favors incumbents, and almost forces politicians to become corrupt in order to recoup the expense of running for office.”
– Margaret Scott, New York Review of Books:

Democracy for Sale promises to be a major contribution to Indonesian politics, and also a book that will be read, discussed, and cited by authors working cross-nationally.”
– Tom Pepinsky, Cornell University, and author of Economic Crises and the Breakdown of Authoritarian Regimes

Democracy for Sale is an outstanding book with a compelling mix of methodologies that will be useful for scientists interested in clientelism in general.”
– Andreas Ufen, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, and coeditor of Democratization in Post-Suharto Indonesia and Party Politics in Southeast Asia

Democracy for Sale combines rich details about the variety and variability of clientelism in Indonesia with a framework for comparing and analyzing clientelism across a variety of country contexts. This is a volume all scholars of clientelism, patronage, and money politics will want on their shelf.”
– Allen Hicken, University of Michigan

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