The Evolution of Indonesia’s Political Economy in One Amazing Figure

My colleague Sharon Poczter and I are finishing up a new paper that analyzes the career backgrounds of a large sample of Indonesian political elites. This means cataloguing thousands of careers on elites’ CVs in order to classify them into various types, such as military, private sector, and so on. Because we have such a rich source of data, we can also analyze phenomena such as individuals with multiple types of employment over their lifetime; the predictive power of gender, religion, partisan affiliation, and education; and differences in career patterns over time.

The last bit means exploiting differences in career histories based on elites’ ages (or implied ages for elites who have died). This is a crude form of cohort analysis, and it allows us to ask if older political elites tended to have different career paths than younger ones. We do this by fitting a series of logistic regression models predicting whether an individual has one of four types of backgrounds—private sector, bureaucracy, government, and military—using with a cubic polynomial of age as the main predictor alongside a series of demographic and political covariates. Here, we’ve plotted the predicted probability that an elite of a particular age has each of the four employment types. We’ve also included 95% confidence intervals. The result is striking.

Among older elites—those who rose to prominence under the New Order—military and bureaucratic backgrounds predominate. Among younger elites, who we can infer rose to prominence under the late New Order period or under democratic rule due to their age, private sector backgrounds predominate. This isn’t exactly the “Rise of Capital” that Richard Robison described: he considered the links between indigenous capital and the state to be much tighter than what this figure is describing, and I am not aware of his predicting a decline of military and state as avenues to political power alongside the rise of capital. But the findings are related, and they help to make sense of how Indonesia’s political economy has changed over the past fifty years.