Protest and State Reaction: An Intra-Regional Comparison (Indonesia, Vietnam)

Dr. Jörg Wischermann
2017 - 2020
EC, Horizon 2020 (coordinator: Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient)

Dr Dang Thi Viet Phuong, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, Vietnam

Dr George Martin Sirait, Atma Jaya Catholoc University of Indonesia, Indonesia



Research Questions

Do democratic and authoritarian political regimes (such as those in Indonesia and Vietnam) react differently to certain forms and contents of protest?

Or do they react in similar ways and can this be explained by the fact that these are capitalist societies with a capitalist state?

Contribution to International Research

This project, which is part of a larger EU project on Regional Integrations in Southeast Asia (CRISEA), is kind of a pilot project. Its data will come from a sample of 4 daily newspapers (2 from Indonesia, 2 from Vietnam) whose reporting on protests and state reactions during a certain period of time (2015 and 2017) is systematically analysed. Thus, the method of “Protest Event Analysis” is applied.

The project pursues two empirical aims:

  • To identify any protest event where the protest targets the state/government, and where such a form of (conflicting) interest articulation and subsequent state reactions involves more than three people.
  • To cover different forms of state reactions. Whereas repression of protest has been widely researched, accommodation and ignorance, especially as regards reactions the state in authoritarian regimes shows vis-à-vis protest, do seem to be under-researched.

From a theoretical perspective the project wants to answer the questions whether there are similarities and/or differences as regards state reactions vis-à-vis (which?) forms and content of protest in polities with varying political regimes (an authoritarian one party regime, an electoral democracy). It also deals with the question how such similarities and/or differences can be explained in a theoretically substantial way.

Research Design and Methods

The project will use theoretical approaches which focus on the state-society nexus and in-built biases of the capitalist state. More specifically, it is intended to draw on Claus Offe’s idea of “structural selectivity”, typical for capitalist states, and Poulantzas’ and Jessop’s concept of “strategic selectivity”, characteristic of states in capitalist societies, in order to explain similarities and differences of state reactions in Indonesia and Vietnam. The project is explorative in nature. It will lead to the development of hypotheses on the state reaction-protest nexus which should be tested in further research.