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Special Symposium, Collective Vigilantism in Global Comparative Perspective

Mechanics of Impunity: Vigilantism and State-Building in Indonesia

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Existing scholarship on vigilantism focuses on explaining factors that push citizens into the streets to take the law into their own hands. This article complements these theories by examining fear of reprisals that can keep vigilantes off the streets. It argues that vigilantism becomes rife when vigilantes find a systematic way to collude with state officials to obtain impunity. Qualitative data from Indonesia illustrate how street-level policemen grant selective impunity for vigilantism to gain public support for dispensing their more pressing duties. Contrary to conventional wisdom that links state-building to a decline in vigilantism, analysis of a sub-national dataset of 33,262 victims of vigilantism in Indonesia shows that a rapid expansion of the state's coercive presence is associated with higher levels of vigilante violence.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2023

This article was made available online on November 2, 2022 as a Fast Track article with title: "Mechanics of Impunity: Vigilantism and State-Building in Indonesia".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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