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Understanding Social Trajectories: Structure and Actor in the Democratization Debate

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This article offers a structuralist approach to understanding social trajectories following the demise of authoritarian regimes. It does so by analyzing the case of Indonesia in the context of debates about democratization more broadly, whether in Southeast Asia or elsewhere. The paper presents the argument that although Indonesia today is clearly a democracy, it is important to comprehend the kind of democracy that has been entrenched, and why this has been possible. Prevalent actor-based approaches, such as that found within “transitology,” as well as “good-governance” perspectives, tend to emphasize institutional change based on either elite pacts or technocratic crafting. More important, however, is to understand the power relations that underlie institutions and thereby determine the way they actually operate—often in ways that are different from design or intention. This requires analyses of the nature of specific constellations of social power and interest, and the sorts of coalitions that actually preside over institutions of governance—a hallmark of structuralist approaches.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2008

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