Home » Feature » Indonesian Labour Movement in Historical Perspective: A View from Below

Indonesian Labour Movement in Historical Perspective: A View from Below

Iqra Anugrah


Book Review

Christiansen, Samantha and Zachary A. Scarlett (eds) (2013), The Third World in the Global 1960s, New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 223 pages

Ingleson, John (2014), Workers, Unions and Politics: Indonesia in the 1920s and 1930s, Leiden, Boston: Brill, 352 pages

Suryomenggolo, Jafar (2013), Organising under the Revolution: Unions and the State in Java, 1945-1948, Singapore, Kyoto: NUS Press and Kyoto University Press, 215 pages



The history of labour movement in a Western context is different from that in a non-Western one. If such is the case, insights into the former, or which there is an abundance of studies, cannot be said to unilaterally apply to the latter, on which, on the contrary, there is a dearth of research. The three books under review here – Ingleson’s Workers, Unions and Politics; Suryomenggolo’s Organising under the Revolution on the history of Indonesian labour movement from the 1920s to 1940s; and Christiansen and Scarlett’s edited volume on new social movements in the third world in the 1960s –provide a much-needed addition to and enrich the field of labour history in the Global South with their emphasis on history from below. While the first two works seek to unravel the history of Indonesian workers as experienced by the workers themselves, the edited volume complements them by highlighting the stories of emerging social movements in post-colonial, developing countries, including Indonesia. By doing so, these works make an important contribution to the study of labour history in Asia.

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