Labor’s reversal of fortune: contentious politics and executive aggrandizement in Indonesia

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Before the presidency of President Joko Widodo (2014–present), Indonesia’s small but feisty labor movement was remarkably successful in defeating government policies that it opposed and winning pro-labor policies. Labor’s success, however, was quickly reversed after Joko Widodo became president. I argue that social movement and contentious politics scholarship provides insufficient analytic leverage to explain labor’s sudden reversal of fate. The budding literature on democratic backsliding, which analyzes the incremental steps through which democracies become less democratic, provides critical insights to understanding labor’s changing fortunes. This broader regime context of executive aggrandizement, not deficiencies in the labor movement or a mere closing of the political opportunity structure, explains both the rapidity and the depth of labor’s reversal of fortune since 2014.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-705
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • Indonesia
  • Labor movement
  • democratic backsliding
  • democratic recession
  • executive aggrandizement


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