Mad Genius: Ali Moertopo and the Making of Modern Indonesia
Why is authoritarian developmentalism so appealing? By examining the selected works of Ali Moertopo (1924-1984), an architect of conservative modernization during Indonesia’s authoritarian period (1966-1998), Iqra Anugrah shows how Moertopo’s conservative program and propaganda resonated with the aspirational politics of fear, growth, and stability in the Cold War context.
This lunch lecture takes place in the IIAS conference room from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Amsterdam Time (CEST); it will not be streamed or recorded.
Everyone is welcome to attend. Please register so we can reserve a seat and lunch for you.
This talk traces the intellectual and historical roots of the global rise of conservatism by exploring the life and thoughts of Ali Moertopo (1924-1984), an army general-cum-architect of Indonesia’s authoritarian-developmentalist regime, the New Order (1966-1998). Focusing on his selected works, such as his conservative manifesto Some Basic Thoughts on the Acceleration and Modernization of 25 Years Development, covert intelligence operations, and not-so-covert political manoeuvring, this preliminary rumination takes Moertopo’s oeuvre as a starting point to think about the meaning of (vernacular) conservatism.
The results are three tentative claims:
First, Moertopo’s eclectic conservatism was inspired by and resonated with three intellectual strands: Burkean-style politics, W.W. Rostow’s anti-communist development program, and a bastardized version of “anti-totalitarianism.”
Second, this project was welcomed by a broad section of the Indonesian elites and their middle-class supporters.
Lastly, Moertopo pushed forward a vision that Western conservatives only dare to imagine: a trusteeship structural-functionalist version of democracy, where the “meritocratic” ruling class rules and the lower orders know their place.
Iqra Anugrah is a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies. Concurrently, he is also a Research Associate at the Institute for Economic and Social Research, Education, and Information in Jakarta, Indonesia. Trained in comparative politics, political theory, and Southeast Asian Studies, he has published on development and democracy in Indonesia for outlets such as Cornell University Press and TRaNS: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia. His current research project formulates a political theory of conservatism in modern Indonesia. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Northern Illinois University and has received grants and fellowships from the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).
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