Book Review: 75 Tahun TNI – Evolusi Ekonomi Pertahanan, Operasi, dan Organisasi Militer Indonesia, 1945-2020

How and why do military organisations change, especially in a post-colonial state?

This is the big question that Evan Laksmana, Iis Gindarsah, and Curie Maharani attempt to answer in their newest publication, 75 Tahun TNI: Evolusi Ekonomi Pertahanan, Operasi, dan Organisasi Militer Indonesia, 1945-2020.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from CSIS Indonesia. It’s a rather hefty publication, topping 300 pages which is chock full of datasets and loads of secondary sources. It would need to be so, as the authors try to prove at least four different hypotheses on military change in Indonesia. The book is written in Bahasa Indonesia, so I will translate many of the direct quotes in the book for the purpose of this review. The authors have hinted at a possible English translation, but that might take some time.

In this review, I look at the main contributions of the book. I first examine where the book stands in terms of existing literature. I then discuss how the book adds to the existing debate, while also addressing some of the book’s few shortcomings.

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Man of Contradictions: understanding the enigma named Jokowi

Ben Bland’s recent book, Man of Contradictions, is touted as the “first English political biography” of Jokowi. There are two biographies of Jokowi in Indonesian, written by Alberthiene Endah. Other “semi-biographies”, such as “Jokoway” by Joko Sulistyo, are questionable at best, as they are written by active government staff. So, I was anticipating Bland’s biography to provide a more impartial picture of Jokowi’s governance.

Front cover of Man of Contradictions. Source: Penguin AU.

In this respect, it delivered. Drawing from his numerous interviews with Jokowi, Ben Bland manages to deliver a relatively impartial assessment of Jokowi’s governance over the years. His central thesis: to understand the enigma that is Jokowi, one must understand his contradictory nature.

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