Understanding Indonesian Muslim Middle Class

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Considering its size and potential, the middle-class had become an essential group besides another social factor for socio-political change. Previous studies such as Richard Tanter and Kenneth Young’s 1993 book, Politik Kelas Menengah Indonesia, a compilation of many articles from Jurnal Prisma, have sketched the middle-class as quantitatively and economically prospective future-fate of Indonesia.

However, their works are inseparable from the social context the Suharto’s regime has been made with his economic development obsession during the 1970s-1990s. The job market, industrial and infrastructure expansion, and followed by the military-backed business, directly affected Indonesia’s social posture. To this extend, some trajectories believed that the middle-class could be the new hope for political renewal and economic refreshment.


Meanwhile, Islam as an alternative socio-economic variable remains in the germinal phase―initiated by Islamic movements such as Lembaga Mujahid Dakwah (LMD) and a similar organization. Parallel to that, Suharto suspicion on Islam is possible to emerge as a latent political thread for his triad-epitome: military, Pancasila, and capitalistic developmentalism.

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Soeharto conducted various measures to prevent such risk, ranging from isolating Muslims on the non-political stage to integrating developmentalism on Islamic universities. However, Soeharto seems failed to address the grassroots movement of modernist and trans-nationalist Islam. Thus, what makes Islamic and middle-class power converged in the aftermath of the 1998 Reformation.

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Jati’ put this in an entirely different social context. He noticed a two-decade-pause on the middle-class scholarship after Tanter and Young’s. So he added other variables such as mentality, pop culture, consolidation of Ummah, and the perils of late-capitalism to his analysis on the Indonesian Muslim middle-class.

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