Anomie and Violence

Non-truth and Reconciliation in Indonesian Peacebuilding
Authored by:
ISBN (print): 9781921666223
ISBN (online): 9781921666230
Publication date: March 2010
Imprint: ANU Press

Indonesia suffered an explosion of religious violence, ethnic violence, separatist violence, terrorism, and violence by criminal gangs, the security forces and militias in the late 1990s and early 2000s. By 2002 Indonesia had the worst terrorism problem of any nation. All these forms of violence have now fallen dramatically. How was this accomplished? What drove the rise and the fall of violence? Anomie theory is deployed to explain these developments. Sudden institutional change at the time of the Asian financial crisis and the fall of President Suharto meant the rules of the game were up for grabs. Valerie Braithwaite’s motivational postures theory is used to explain the gaming of the rules and the disengagement from authority that occurred in that era. Ultimately resistance to Suharto laid a foundation for commitment to a revised, more democratic, institutional order. The peacebuilding that occurred was not based on the high-integrity truth-seeking and reconciliation that was the normative preference of these authors. Rather it was based on non-truth, sometimes lies, and yet substantial reconciliation. This poses a challenge to restorative justice theories of peacebuilding.


David Jansen reviewed Anomie and Violence: Non-truth and Reconciliation in Indonesian Peacebuilding in the December 2010 issue of Contemporary Southeast Asia. He commends the book for providing “a lucid, empirically comprehensive and balanced analysis of Indonesia’s recent internal conflicts.” Jansen writes: “For Indonesia experts this book is valuable, both as a reference text and for its analytical value in explaining the causes and endings of Indonesia’s recent internal conflicts…what the authors have achieved is to cover ground well worn by other scholars and with an empirical and analytical comprehensiveness incorporated into a comparative framework that allows for juxtaposition between cases. This distinguishes the text from other academic products and makes it a valuable resource.”

Gerry van Klinken reviewed Anomie and Violence: Non-truth and Reconciliation in Indonesian Peacebuilding for the Australian Journal of Political Science (Vol. 46, No. 2, June 2011). In this review, van Klinken congratulates the authors’ “ambition” and “open-endedness” in their approach to gathering data for this study into collective violence in Indonesia. Van Klinken writes “In the end the most exciting part of the book is…the beginnings of an innovative, simple explanatory language”, which could provide the framework to understand the dynamics behind collective political violence. If, as hoped, this is developed in future volumes in the Peacebuilding Compared series, concludes van Klinken, ”It could produce the breakthrough we need to understand the processes underlying collective violence.”