Tocqueville in Indonesia: On the Democratic Soul in the World Third Largest Democracy

Scholars and analysts have pointed out the rise of populism and identity politics as the primary cause of the democratic regression in Indonesia. But the democratic regression in Indonesia cannot be explained by a single issue. With Tocqueville as a guide, this paper analyzes the issue of the democratic soul and the Indonesian situation. Tocqueville's analysis of the democratic soul and the American situation suggests that the former, like democracy itself, is fundamentally unstable. The instability will eventually lead the democratic soul to throw itself in serving a powerful tyrant.

Using Tocqueville's analysis, this paper argues that democratic restlessness in Indonesia is caused by the instability of three institutional mechanisms: family, economy, and religion. Specifically, democratic regression in Indonesia is caused by the failure of these institutional mechanisms to control the negative impulse of the democratic soul, which thus allows a tyrannical soul to dominate.