Precarity, Populism and Intra-Oligarchic Conflicts

Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir6

6 Department of Sociology, State University of Jakarta, and Asia Institute, University of Melbourne , , Australia

Studies on precarity have argued that the increasing socio-economic insecurity due to the expansion of neoliberal market undermines democratic polity by way of providing ingredient for reactionary populist politics. As such proposition is mostly based on European experience, Indonesian case illustrates different trajectory of the relationship between precarity and democracy. This is because the working class in this country has long been precarious, relatively without socio-economic protection, even before the introduction of flexible labour regime. Furthermore, leftist politics that concerns with the working class’ interests has long been destructed, while democracy has been in decay since it was introduced two decades ago due to the domination of oligarchic politics. Within this context, identity politics has indeed been pervasive in the electoral contests, but why has right-wing populism appeared most dramatically after 2014? It is argued here that intra-oligarchic conflicts represented in the 2014 presidential election are key to understand such a dramatic rise of reactionary populist politics expressed through the mobilisation of Islamic and nationalist sentiments. Hence, the increasing precarity does not necessarily give rise to right-wing populism as it has more to do with the escalating national-level divisive competition among oligarchic elites.


Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir is a PhD candidate at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne, and a lecturer at the Department of Sociology, State University of Jakarta. His article ‘Islamic Militias and Capitalist Development in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia’ won the 2018 Journal of Contemporary Asia Best Article Prize.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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