Hilmar Farid: The Challenge of Reform under the Jokowi Presidency

The Challenge of Reform under the Jokowi Presidency


While it is a cliché to say any reform faces a multitude of challenges that cannot be reduced to one single factor, it is necessary to understand the complexity of reform from a certain point of view. In the context of state ideology I argue that the many challenges of reform under the Jokowi Presidency are symptoms of lacking a theory of change: where are we now, where do we want to go, how are we going to get there. Here, the fundamental problem lies in the collective “we” since Indonesia still has not developed an empirical basis for its huge diversity. Lack of continuous research and sheer ignorance in certain cases of policy-making are part of the problem. I further argue that the hijacking of gotong-royong — once a dynamic concept (paham yang dinamis) that guided the development of religiosity, nationalism and democracy of the Indonesian society under President Soekarno, to become a fixed value of economic development under President Soeharto — is one of the main reasons behind the malaise of knowledge production. Fixed as a central value, gotong royong became an unquestioned ideal. Finally, I argue that it should be a platform for debate and a paradigm of research.

Speaker’s Bio

Hilmar Farid is a historian and cultural activist. In the 1990s he was active in the pro-democracy movement. He is a founding member of Jaringan Kerja Budaya, a collective of artists and cultural workers in the early 1990s, and also the Institute of Indonesian Social History in 2000. He taught history and cultural studies at the Jakarta Arts Institute and University of Indonesia for several years. He received his PhD from the National University of Singapore and wrote his thesis on Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the politics of decolonization in Indonesia. He has been an active member of the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA) and the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society. On 31 December 2015, after a long selection process, he was appointed as the Director General for Culture at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

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