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Indonesian Destinies Hardcover – June 20, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1ST edition (June 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674011376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674011373
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,502,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


An engaging romp through the 54 years of Indonesia's existence, its scope is a broad one. Part personal memoir, part history, part economic treatise, it makes for a useful (and bang up-to-date) introduction to the unknown archipelago, particularly valuable in light of the absence of much in the way of competition. (The Economist 2003-05-31)

Mr. Friend...succeeds in making Indonesia comprehensible because he uses a wealth of contemporary Indonesian contacts to paint a lively historical, sociological, anthropological and at times gossipy portrait of the country...For those who know little about Indonesia and for those who know much, this is a captivating rendition. (Jane Perlez New York Times 2003-11-08)

For foreigners and Indonesians alike, Theodore Friend's book is a rich informative source to better understand the country's post-colonial history. This scholarly work has an engaging, often reflective narrative style that is always full of details from numerous interviews conducted since the writer first started visiting the country, sometime in 1967-1968. (Mohammad Sadli Jakarta Post 2004-01-11)

This is an outstanding general history of Indonesia over the four and a half decades since its troubled independence, won after 300 years of Dutch colonial rule. But it is also a reliable, insightful guide to the dynamics of current Indonesian politics, and the troubled but principled and (so far) surprisingly robust presidency of Megawati Sukarnoputri...[Friend] enjoyed exceptional access to the nation's key leaders during the dramatic transition to democracy in 1998-2000. His consequent blending of scholarship and hands-on direct experience informs every page of this book. (Martin Sieff Washington Times 2004-01-04)

[Friend] combines scholarly analysis with vivid personal recollections--of both important political players and ordinary people. The result is a book of passionate engagement and first-rate scholarship. (Michael J. Ybarra Wall Street Journal 2004-03-11)

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, is extraordinarily complex, and few books give so complete and vivid an introduction as does this one. Friend, a masterly political scientist, economist, and anthropologist and an insightful travelogue observer, has met most of the major actors who have shaped Indonesia since its independence and is thus able to bring them to life...[He leaves] the reader with an informed understanding of contemporary developments in this important but distant country. (Foreign Affairs 2004-03-01)

Indonesian Destinies offers a sustained treatment of Indonesian history and society that rivals Adam Schwartz's A Nation in Waiting as the most comprehensive overview of political change in the country from independence to the present day. It is appealingly modest in tone, simultaneously wideranging and attentive to detail, and commendably generous towards other Indonesia specialists, especially junior scholars. The book's historical narrative is peppered with regular digressions on important topics and with personal anecdotes from Friend's research and travels in Indonesia over many decades. (John Sidel Times Higher Education Supplement 2004-05-21)

Theodore Friend, the former president of Swarthmore College and a longtime observer of and participant in South-East Asian affairs, [takes] a wide, historical view in his thoughtful and trustworthy account of Indonesia from its creation out of the debris of a Dutch colonial past...Because he seems to have read everything, been nearly everywhere and met just about everyone, Friend proves himself to be a worthy guide through the hopes and tragedies of Indonesia's first fifty-odd years. (Margaret Scott Times Literary Supplement 2004-06-11)

Theodore Friend, a renowned scholar of Southeast Asian countries, has written a balanced, fascinating, and richly illustrated book about Indonesia. He records the views of presidents and generals, but he also dwells 'on several individual Indonesians of no special prominence because they illustrate ordinary lives with grace under pressure, and because I like them.' The result of this combination of personal anecdote and scholarly expertise is a kaleidoscopic view of the successes and failures of Indonesia: 'sometimes rarified aromas; too often, bloody reek. (Vasuki Shastry Finance and Development 2004-06-01)

Theodore Friend has written a most engaging book about Indonesia, looking back over the first 50 years of Indonesian history, profiling many of the people whom he met in the course of researching the subject, and disarming the reader with frankly stated opinions about any number of topics that come up along the way. This is like no other book on Indonesia, far more scholarly than the snapshots of journalists and far more revealing of the author's open personality than most dissertations by academics. It is a book to be savored by readers who already know Indonesia well and to be read with profit by any who hope to join their company. Friend is a genial guide…a consummate reporter…and an indefatigable gatherer of the accounts of others…Friend writes with clarity and wit. (John Bresnan Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies)


A major work based on an incomparable first-person experience of a stunningly wide range of critical events and major personalities. Friend seems to have known everyone and been everywhere. (Clifford Geertz)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Laszlo Wagner on September 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
After seeing all the raving reviews of this book, I was excited to have a look myself.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a major disappointment. Its coverage of Indonesia is largely focussed on Java, with very little attention paid to other islands. What is worse, I often found the style to be very much of populist journalism, aimed at uninformed readers, based on catchy phrases and anecdotes rather than hard facts. This is particularly evident when the author does deal with the outer islands, about which his knowledge seems to be, err, limited...
To give just 2 examples:
In the chapter on Aceh, the author makes a lot of fuss about how the Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, with its very "un-Javanese", Indian style expresses the orientation of the Acehnese towards West, rather than towards Java and the rest of Indonesia. What a poor example! He obviously failed to realize that the beautiful mosque in question was actually built by the Dutch colonialists (designed by an Italian architect), after they had destroyed the original, typically "Javanese-looking" Acehnese mosque previously standing there during their bloody conquest of Aceh, and is therefore an example of the westward orientation of the Dutch, not of the Acehnese!
In the chapter on the conflict in Ambon and the rest of Maluku, he puts much of the blame on the breakdown of traditional values due to westernization, claming the coming of cell-phones and McDonalds (among others) paved the way to the bloody events there. Oh dear...
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a style that ranges from academic to personal, objective to emotional, Friend presents an incisive exploration of Indonesia: its history, its people and culture. It is a remarkable synthesis of historical description and theoretical explanation drawing on many primary sources and departments of knowledge: geography, economics, social theory.
If you ever wanted to understand Indonesia holistically-not simply through the lens of economics or religion, this book should be on your list.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is the most comprehensive and yet not-too-hard read on Indonesian independence history that I have found. With detailed accounts of important events, vivid descriptions, and personal experience, Theodore Friend is able to weave together a compelling story about the complexity of the Indonesian history since independence. The crucial facts and theories are insightful if not eye-opening, especially for Indonesians who have not been exposed to the nation's history from an outsider perspective.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kusmulx on August 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Every single page in this book offers a glimpse into the complexity of Indonesian society. As a reader, we are brought into understanding the social events that occurred in this country through differing point of views, from the powerful government, the simple yet hopeful citizens or foreigners that either fell in love with the country or somehow managed to get themselves tied to the country. As an Indonesian myself, I am thankful to Mr.Friend for this book. It is like a glass of water quenching the thirst of knowledge on the subject that has too long been oppressed in Indonesia itself. More than anything, this book serves its purpose well that is to make readers, both Indonesian and those affiliated, to question many unfortunate social disorders that had befallen upon this country. If Indonesia is heading toward to a better society, only a study into her past will guides her future. By ignoring the mistakes from the past social disorders, Indonesia will only fall back to the same state many years to come in the future, only a matter of time. This book put out the many issues for readers to discuss, to ponder and to question. From reading the book, we know as a reader that this book is written by a writer that really cares about the issues in Indonesia.
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