Reproducing Academic Insularity in a Time of Neo-liberal Markets: The Case of Social Science Research in Indonesian State Universities

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This article reflects on neo-liberal reform of Indonesia’s state universities, using Michael Burawoy’s approach to the division of sociological labour in particular and social science in general. It examines the relationship between neo-liberal market imperatives and authoritarian bureaucratic legacies that not only curtail the development of theoretically engaged and socially relevant scholarship but also shape knowledge production through the marketisation of technocratic research. This article shows how, counter-intuitively, the rise of managerial power linked with neo-liberal policies has prolonged the mechanics of bureaucratic administration that Indonesian state universities inherited from the authoritarian New Order regime. This has resulted in a condition where insular academic practices perpetuate technocratic social science research driven by market mechanisms. The article argues that acknowledging the unequal status accorded to instrumental as opposed to reflexive knowledge production is crucial to understand the failures of neo-liberal reform in post-authoritarian Indonesia state universities. It concludes that a thorough reconsideration of the institutional settings that have systematically constrained critical and professional social science in Indonesia is necessary before any attempts at structural changes that enable the sort of deep engagement with the public that Burawoy envisages for a critical social science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-86
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2019


  • academic insularity
  • higher education
  • marketisation
  • Michael Burawoy
  • Neo-liberalism
  • state university


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