Workers and Intellectuals: NGOs, Trade Unions and the Indonesian Labour Movement

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By Michele Ford

After decades of repression, Indonesia's independent labour movement re-emerged in the 1990s led by the NGO activists and students who organized industrial workers and spoke on their behalf. Worker-led trade unions returned to centre stage in 1998 when Suharto's authoritarian regime crumbled and labour NGO activists and their organizations continued to play an influentialâ and often controversialâ part in the reconstruction of the labour movement.

Workers and Intellectuals explores how middle-class activists struggled to define their place in a movement shaped by more than a century of fierce debate about the role of non-worker intellectuals. Drawing on extensive interviews, this book documents the resurgence of labour activism and explains how activists and workers perceived the position of NGOs in relation to workers and trade unions. This fine-grained study of labour organizing in a developing country speaks simultaneously to local and global questions and is important for scholars of labour history, politics and sociology as well as specialists working on Indonesia.


"This book is indeed well designed and clearly written, with many detailed references and notes. It is mainly, one must conclude, a useful book for policy-makers, trade union leaders and intellectuals and other individuals who are interested in trade union ovements in general... Although the book is highly specialized in focus, area-studies lecturers and researchers, as well [as] graduate students, may also find many nuggets of information on this relatively neglected topic. It [is] strongly recommended as a library purchase." - Ying Zhu


Michele Ford chairs the Department of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on the Indonesian labour movement, labour transnationalism and trade union responses to labour migration.


Asian Studies Association of Australia: Southeast Asian Publications Series
Publication Year: 2009
272 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-488-3, Paperback

NUS Press