Conservatism, defined here as an elitist, reactionary, pragmatic, and cross-class idea-cum-movement in defense of tradition and hierarchies (Robin 2018), has attracted vast support in recent years, manifested in symptoms such as illiberal politics, traditionalist populism, and anti-political correctness.

The evolution of Indonesian conservatism (1945-2020) and its significant influence provides a vantage point from which to critically analyze conservative and right-wing populist thoughts globally and offers a decolonized understanding of contemporary conservatism.

The project’s main hypothesis is this: the gradual, decisive rise of eclectic conservatism in Indonesia is a result of the elites’ attempts, out of fear of mass democratic demands, to safeguard capitalist modernization, social stability, and traditionalist politico-moral order.

Further, Iqra Anugrah advances three additional claims. First, in opposition to left-wing nationalism (1945-1965), Indonesian anti-communist intellectuals and military leaders under the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a major think-tank of the New Order government (1966-1998), embraced policy pragmatism and “pro-democracy” authoritarian developmentalism. Second, departing from the Western conservative free-market orthodoxy, Indonesian neoliberal technocrats (1966-2020) combine neoclassical economics, Keynesianism, and communitarian traditions to defend market capitalism. Lastly, Iqra shows the appropriation of postmodern sensibility in culture wars and contentious politics by Islamist activists and celebrities under democracy (1998-2020).

Iqra adopts a contextual, broad-church definition of conservatism as outlined above. Following a critical materialist approach, this definition acknowledges core ethos of conservatism as formulated by its major thinkers and the lived experience of conservative actors. This allows him to study opposing groups, such as Western-inspired anti-communist, anti-Islamist intellectuals and Islamist populists, in tandem. Rival conservative movements are often united by common values, such as commitment to moral paternalism, a view of politics as a cosmic battle, and support for economic growth sans class conflict. The cases are selected to understand the major characteristics of contemporary conservatism based on an informed generalization of illustrative case studies.

Moving beyond the textual preoccupation in mainstream political theory research, Iqra utilizes a wide range of materials: archives, documents, visual materials, secondary literature, and interviews. This includes essays, media reports, memoirs, protest aesthetics, and memes, among others.