Consumerism and the Emergence of a New Middle Class in Globalizing Indonesia

Ansori, Mohammad
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Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
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Most analysts of the middle class agree that the emergence of a new middle class in Asian countries was the inevitable result of economic reform in the developing states. The emergence of this new middle class in Asian countries took place in the 1980s and 1990s during the third wave of economic development and industrialization in the region, resulting not only in economic modernization, but also leading to the implementation of important economic policies. Apart from increasing economic growth, those policies encouraged export-led industrial transformation and further facilitated the growing movement towards a new economy driven by financial globalization, market liberalization and the globalization of products. As a result of these economic policies, the process of economic growth and industrialization has produced improvement in absolute living standards. This can be seen in the state-led industrialization policy of South Korea, whose rapid economic growth in recent decades continuously improved people’s living standards, and a large number of people were able to move into the expanding middle class.2 Rapid industrialization accompanied by modernization and market liberalization created affluent and prosperous groups in society. A range of indicators reveal improvements in living standards. For example, ownership of cars, telephones, televisions, refrigerators, and other such material possessions hasincreased. In addition, safe water supplies and healthy foods have become more accessible. Indonesia is experiencing a similar trend of economic and social change. The country’s economic modernization and development was initiated and promoted by the New Order (1966-1997). The 1980s were an important period as economic progress at the time led to the emergence of the Indonesian middle class. People obtained work as business executives and managers, stock analysts, engineers, bankers, lawyers, accountants, white-collar office workers in city centers and other professional jobs often associated with a booming middle class. This state-led industrialization was intended to stimulate the emergence of a new middle class in Indonesia. William Liddle, a prominent Indonesianist, has suggested that Indonesia’s liberalizing economic policy during the New Order regime is largely responsible for the growth of the middle class.
This journal has been published at different time periods under the following titles: Explorations: A Graduate Student Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Explorations in Southeast Asian Studies, and The Journal of the Southeast Asian Studies Association.
Ansori, Mohammad. 2009. Consumerism and the Emergence of a New Middle Class in Globalizing Indonesia. Explorations: A Graduate Student Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 9 (1):87-97.
Indonesia, Economic Development
11 pages
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