Musyawarah-Mufakat and the Taming of a Political Mass

Agus Suwignyo

Universitas Gadjah Mada Department of History, Indonesia

This paper explores whether the formalized, traditionally rooted consensual democracy, known by Indonesians as musyawarah–mufakat, needs to be re-visited as to better understand the growing sense of citizenship of the Indonesian people over the past two decades. Musyawarat–mufakat stands as an ideology of the Indonesian state, thus it is legally binding for Indonesian citizens. With the renewed liberal democracy during the Reformasi period, musyawarah–mufakat as a mechanism of decision making has fallen under critical scrutiny in terms of its principal values. While the social dynamics of individual citizens has become qualitatively more and more compelling over time, in this article I argue that the collective nature of musyawarah–mufakat does represent the taming of the political mass that overrides the individuals’ sense of citizenship. Musyawarah–mufakat as a state ideology has promoted a collective type of citizenship imposing that decisions on public affairs have to be made consensually and unanimously. However, such values hardly conform with the mechanism of liberal democracy currently undertaking.


Agus Suwignyo is an assistant professor in History at the History Department, Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Gadjah Mada University Yogyakarta. He earned his doctorate degree from Leiden University, the Netherlands in 2012 on the teacher training in Java and Sumatra from 1890 to 1969. His recent publications include ‘Diffusionism in World History Teaching in Indonesia 1950 – 2006’ in World History Teaching in Asia: A Comparative Survey, ed. Shingo Minamizuka (Berkshire, 2019); ‘Gotong royong as social citizenship in Indonesia 1940s – 2014’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 50 (3), September 2019.



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