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Sukarno:A Political Biography

And yet, from this mixed parentage there was born a figure who consistently espoused nationalism as a defining ideology. But from the start, and perhaps because of his background, it was a syncretic nationalism that tried to create unity by bridging difference. Initially, of course, this nationalism was defined via opposition to Dutch colonial rule. It was a nationalism that brought the young Sukarno into conflict with the authorities, led to periods of imprisonment and exile.

Nothing strange here. The twentieth century is full of such figures who struggled against externally-imposed colonial rule. But whereas to the north Laurel was eventually disgraced by the association, Sukarno found himself in the president of an independent Indonesia. And here, perhaps is where the nationalist ideology became, out of necessity, essentially pragmatic. As an ideology, nationalism claims it expresses a single identity or culture, often defined by language or religion.

And this despite the fact that there are almost no nations that actually display the homogeneity that the ideology assumes. It thus has the capacity to become an exclusive force in direct contradiction to its stated aim. Thus nationalism inevitably is an ideology that is easiest to define and promulgate by opposing what it is not, rather than defining precisely what it is.

We only have to think of the agendas of the so-called nationalist parties and movements in contemporary Europe, and how they crystallize around opposition. And we have the National Front, nationalist because it opposes immigration. The list could be a long one.


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So nationalism often must be defined in relation to what we are not, rather than via what we are. If you live in a country subjected to colonial rule, it is surely easy to define nationalism around concepts of independence and self-government. One these things have been achieved, however, the focus that defined the nationalism is removed.

If it is to continue as an ideology for an independent nation, it must change, one option is for it to be elevated to state-worship, almost to the status of a national religion.

Indonesia, the nation under President Sukarno in 1955

But in a country as vast as Indonesia, the social conformity this route requires could never have been achieved. So Sukarno took the other route that can sustain nationalism as a state ideology, which was expansionism, coupled with attempts to create coalitions across political ideology and religion. The expansionist tendency led to the incorporation of West Irian into Indonesia. It might be argued the same need for expansion to bolster nationalism led, under Suharto, to the invasion of East Timor. The point here is that the external positions are adopted in order to define internal political identity.

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As well as promoting an external focus, alliances and coalitions must be erected internally to create at least a semblance of unity. And so the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI, was part of an equation whose result was always going to be a problem, given the ubiquity of the cold War and the proximity of China. When we consider the difficulty of creating unity out of such an admixture, we then appreciate the need for nationalism to retain its external focus. No nationalist agenda can cut across ideological differences that are global.

Legge reminds us of his achievements. The politics of the region and of the century were influenced by him. Certainly he was a great figure, but, because of his use of syncretic nationalism, he was not a contributor to political thought and so, perhaps, his influence died with him.

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Nov 28, Gabrielle rated it liked it Shelves: history , indonesian , politics , non-fiction. Tidak sedalam buku-buku lain yg secara khusus membahas tentang pribadi Sukarno, tetapi dalam membahas strategi dan perjalanan politiknya, buku ini sangat mearik.


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  • Drama perjalanan politik dan perjuangan Sukarno dari masa mudanya hingga akhir hayatnya dipaparkan dengan indah, dan penuturan tentang perjalanan politik beliau secara lengkap cukup jarang didapatkan biasanya lebih ke pribadi Sukarno. Overall, buku ini seru, menegangkan, dan recomended untuk para pengamat dan penggemar Sukarno. Dec 16, Thamrong rated it really liked it. Sukarno, other biography, was one of the great charismatic leaders of the post WW2.

    An undisputed architect of Indonesian independence who is steep in Javanese tradition and genuine revolutionary View 1 comment. ISBN : X. May 16, Sulaiman Narowi added it. The book is fresh from the publisher's stock but has minimal spotting and scuffing on the text block and a small nick at the top of the first three pages. Otherwise it looks new.

    Advanced Search Click Here. Category Listing. Free Newsletter. Sukarno - A Political Biography John David Legge This edition of Sukarno's popular biography, published just after the accession of his daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to the Presidency attempts to reassess his legacy.

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    Tidak sedalam buku-buku lain yg secara khusus membahas tentang pribadi Sukarno, tetapi dalam membahas strategi dan perjalanan politiknya, buku ini sangat mearik. Drama perjalanan politik dan perjuangan Sukarno dari masa mudanya hingga akhir hayatnya dipaparkan dengan indah, dan penuturan tentang perjalanan politik beliau secara lengkap cukup jarang didapatkan biasanya lebih ke pribadi Sukarno.

    Overall, buku ini seru, menegangkan, dan recomended untuk para pengamat dan penggemar Sukarno.


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