The predicament of a rent-seeking society : a sociology of business-government relations in Indonesia
Corruption within business-government relations is one of the pressing issues in
contemporary political economy in Indonesia. The problem has been understood mainly
in terms of the idea dominant in the existing literature on corruption, i. e., as it product of
the overbearing intrusion of the state on business through the capricious and arbitrary
actions of state bureaucrats. The view has been reinforced by the legacy of long-standing
authoritarianism, in which state dominance under the Soeharto regime (1966-1998) has
been perceived as one of the most significant determinants of the phenomenon.
Based on the interviews with 86 respondents from business, government and other
sectors, this study shows that the phenomenon of corruption within business government
relations in Indonesia cannot be satisfactorily explained by the "grabbinghand"
image of state bureaucrats. It is shown that businesses actively pursue the
practices of purchase and capture of the existing rules of the game in the form of various
rent-seeking activities. Instead of being treated as a dependent variable, these practices
Should be conceived as an explanatory factor of the phenomenon. The capacity to
conduct these practices is integral to the exercise of business power vis-a-vis other
groups in society.
The consequential exercise of business power involved in the practices suggests
that the theoretical status of business power cannot be ruled out from the analysis of
corruption within business-government relations. A more robust explanation of the
phenomenon requires fundamental reassessments of the existing liberal and neo-liberal
conceptions of the problem. In this respect, the public character of business and the
poverty of the state-centred conception of power are highlighted. The theoretical thrust
of the study is relevant for understanding similar problems in other areas.