Violent Forms In Sociopolitical Spheres Understanding State

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Violent Forms In Sociopolitical Spheres: Understanding State Mass Killings In Indonesia 1965-66 Essay, Research Paper Violent Forms in Sociopolitical Spheres: Understanding State Mass Killings in Indonesia 1965-66 Amanda Maull 2-04-01 H.Schulte Nordholt Political Violence in Asia In order to develop a general framework with which to understand collective political violence, I examine state mass killings in Indonesia 1965-66. While acknowledging the importance of historical/cultural factors, I identify elements within the sociopolitical sphere that influence actors of collective political violence at national, local, and event- specific levels. Elements discussed are elite interests, justification for violence, formal organizations, and mobilization factors. Finally, I suggest

future preventative policy measures. Introduction Violence marks much of human history. Within the sociopolitical sphere, violence has continually served as a tool used by various actors to influence and/or to control territory, people, institutions and other resources of society. The twentieth century witnessed an evolution of political violence in form and in scope. Continuing into the twenty-first, advances in technology and social organization dramatically increase the potential destructiveness of violent tools. Western colonialism left a world filled with many heterogeneous nation-states. In virtually all these countries nationalist ideologies have combined with ethnic, religious, and/or class conflicts resulting in secessionist movements or other kinds of demands. Such

conflicts present opportunities for various actors in struggles for wealth, power, and prestige on both national and local levels. This is particularly evident in Indonesia, a region of the world that has experienced many forms of political violence. The state mass killings of 1965-66 mark the most dramatic of such events within this region. My goal is to understand the killings within a framework of collective political violence. I consider actors and agencies at national, local and event-specific levels in order to understand the mobilization of actors. Within this framework, I determine the relative importance of historical/cultural factors, elite interests, justifications for violence, organization and individual perceptions. Finally, I present questions for future research

and preventative policy options. Common explanations of political violence in Indonesia focus on local culture, the legacies of colonialism, and the social conflicts through which violence manifests. Often, observers describe such events as spontaneous and uncontrollable. One obtains the impression that riots are explosions of latent tensions and mass killings, unstoppable runaway trains. However such explanations are at best incomplete and significantly obscure important variables. Mass collective violence is rarely spontaneous. Elite interests, formal organizations and actors at various levels interact to create violent 1 outcomes. I consider such interactions surrounding the state mass killings in Indonesia 1965-66. The Frames of Violent Forms Defined generally as “the use

of physical force or coercion, used with the intention of bringing harm to others (and their material goods), which is linked to a struggle for power”, political violence make take on numerous forms. Such forms are characterized by varying elements of intensity, destructiveness, and duration. It is not my intention to provide a general descriptive theory of political violence. Given the varied nature of political violence and the compounding complexities of unique circumstance, an attempt at such a mega-theory would over-generalize in the search for ideal types and remain inapplicable to real situations. However, some forms of collective political violence possess common elements. This suggests the possibility of a general framework for understanding collective political