Surviving Against the Odds

Village Industry in Indonesia

by S. Ann Dunham, Alice G. Dewey, Nancy I. Cooper, Maya Soetoro-Ng and Robert W. Hefner

Surviving Against the Odds

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Surviving Against the Odds

Surviving against the Odds

Village Industry in Indonesia


Duke University Press

Copyright © 2009 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4687-6

Contents

Foreword by Maya Soetoro-Ng.................................................................................ixEditors' Preface by Alice G. Dewey and Nancy I. Cooper......................................................xiEditor's Acknowledgments....................................................................................xxvACKNOWLEDGMENTS.............................................................................................xxxiSUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS (a sampling of S. Ann Dunham's field notes, a letter, and maps).....................xxxv1. Introduction.............................................................................................12. The Socioeconomic Organization of Metalworking Industries................................................403. Kajar, a Blacksmithing Village in Yogyakarta.............................................................824. Relevant Macrodata.......................................................................................1555. Government Interventions.................................................................................2116. Conclusions and Development Implications.................................................................264APPENDIX....................................................................................................299NOTES.......................................................................................................303GLOSSARY OF METALWORKING TERMS..............................................................................315Afterword: Ann Dunham, Indonesia, and Anthropology-A Generation On, by Robert W. Hefner.....................333Bibliography................................................................................................347Index.......................................................................................................361

Chapter One

Introduction

THIS BOOK CONCERNS several types of nonagricultural activities in rural Indonesia, namely blacksmithing and other small metalworking industries. A study of these industries is needed because in recent decades there has been a shift of labor out of agriculture and into nonagricultural sectors of the peasant economy in Indonesia, and in some other densely populated countries with a predominantly peasant population. Accordingly, third world governments and international aid agencies are devoting more of their attention and resources to programs for nonagricultural activities.

Social scientists working in Indonesia, on the other hand, have been very pessimistic about the development potential of nonagricultural activities. They have assumed that agriculture, particularly wet-rice agriculture, always generates more income per labor-hour than nonagricultural activities. It follows from this assumption that peasants do not willingly leave the agricultural sector. Instead, they are forced out by growing inequities in the distribution of irrigable land and the loss of traditional rights to earn rice income by working for shares. Models of rural change developed by social scientists working in Indonesia have been based almost entirely on fieldwork carried out in lowland wet-rice villages on Java. While lowland wet-rice villages constitute a majority of all villages, there are many other types of villages in Indonesia which do not grow wet rice, or where wet-rice cultivation is less important than other economic activities. These include villages which specialize in small industries, fishing or aquaculture, market trade, long-distance circuit trading, livestock production, building and construction, small-holder cultivation of cash crops, and the collection of salable materials in government forests.

Very few studies have been done of villages which specialize in activities other than wet-rice cultivation. The rural industrial sector has been particularly neglected by social scientists, although national statistics show that small industries are the primary occupation of 8 percent of the employed rural population. In a country as large as Indonesia, 8 percent of the employed rural population translates to between three and four million villagers. Studies of villages which specialize in activities other than wet-rice cultivation would probably force a rethinking of present socioeconomic models. Patterns of resource allocation in these villages may be very different than in wet-rice villages. It seems an obvious point-but one which has usually been overlooked-that villages tend to specialize in the activity which they perceive as most profitable. That activity, which is determined by a combination of ecological, demographic, and historical factors, is not always wet-rice cultivation. There is a need to move beyond models which perceive wet-rice cultivation as the only important activity in rural Indonesia and toward models which perceive specialization in wet-rice cultivation as only one of many options available to rural Indonesians.

It is unfortunately not possible to cover in detail all types of peasant industries in a single study. I have therefore chosen to focus on a single subsector: metalworking industries. This subsector includes iron forging (more commonly known as blacksmithing), iron casting (limited to two villages in Central Java), the casting of copper and its alloys bronze and brass, silver- and goldsmithing, new industries based on the welding of factory-made tubing and sheet metal (usually aluminum or zinc), and repair industries, including the work of cutlers who sharpen tools and tinkers who mend metal items.

The word "smith" can properly be used to include all types of producers who make items from metal. Using this broad definition, we can estimate that there are about 200,000 smiths working in Indonesia today. This estimate is based on industrial surveys carried out by the Indonesian Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS). According to these surveys the number of cottage and small-scale enterprises in code 38, the international industrial code for metalworking, increased from 18,389 to 39,421 in the eleven- or twelve-year period between 1974-75 and 1986 (see table 1). During the same period the number of workers employed in these industries increased from 77,886 to 118,211. About 40 percent of all workers were traditional blacksmiths making agricultural and workman's tools. Industrial code 38 includes several industries not discussed in this book, such as more sophisticated machine and electronic industries. Most of the enterprises making these products are large, so their inclusion in code 38 does not appreciably affect the figures for cottage and small-scale enterprises.

A Note on Terminology

The choice of the term "peasant" in this book is deliberate, and is intended to affirm my ties to the subspecialty of economic anthropology and to the large literature on peasants in that subspecialty. I am willing to accept any one of several well-known definitions of peasants, as long as that definition acknowledges that peasants are not merely agriculturalists but engage in other economic activities as well. The recognition that peasants are not merely agriculturalists is usually attributed to Raymond Firth in his study of Malay fishermen (Firth 1966 [1946], 5-7). Other well-known definitions of peasants are as follows:

Peasants ... constitute part societies with part cultures. [They are] definitely rural-yet live in relation to market towns; they form a class segment of a larger population which usually also contains urban centers.... They lack the isolation, the political autonomy and the self-sufficiency of tribal populations; but their local units retain much of their old identity, integration and attachment to soil and cults. (Kroeber 1948, 284)

[The peasant society is] a half society ... a part of a larger social unit [usually a nation] which is vertically and horizontally structured. The peasant component of this larger unit bears a symbiotic spatial-temporal relationship to the more complex component, which is formed by the upper classes of the pre-industrial urban center. (Foster 1953, 163; Foster 1967, 5) [In speaking of peasants the author is] not discussing simple communities of small-scale subsistence producers, wherever they may be found, but communities that represent the rural expression of large, class-structured, economically complex pre-industrial civilizations, in which trade and commerce and craft specialization are well developed, in which money is commonly used, and in which market disposition is the goal for a part of the producer's efforts. The city is the principal source of innovation, and the prestige motivation brings novelty to the country. (Foster 1960-61, 175; Foster 1967, 5).

Other authors who have contributed to the by-now fairly standardized definition of peasantry include Sjoberg with his concept of the "preindustrial city" and Redfield with his concept of the "folk-urban continuum."

Thus a definition of a peasant community must contain at a minimum the notion of a structural relationship with urban centers and urban markets. In classic peasant societies the urban center is a pre-industrial one. The court centers (kraton) and harbor principalities of Indonesia before the twentieth century fit this image well. Some authors have suggested that a new term is needed to describe peasantries which interact with partly or entirely industrialized urban centers. Foster has suggested the term "postpeasants," and Geertz uses the term "post-traditional" to describe twentieth-century lowland Javanese villages. Geertz's term is not value-free, for he describes the "post-traditional" village as follows: "Unable either to stabilize the equilibrated wet-rice system it had autochthonously achieved before 1830, or yet to achieve a modern form on, say, the Japanese model, the twentieth-century lowland Javanese village-a great, sprawling community of desperately marginal agriculturalists, petty traders, and day laborers-can perhaps only be referred to, rather lamely, as 'posttraditional'" (Geertz 1963, 90). I prefer to avoid these negative connotations and will therefore use the term "peasant" without a qualifier. It should be understood, however, that Indonesian cities and even Indonesian villages are partly industrialized. The industrial transformation is most apparent in the transport sector, but it is beginning to make itself felt in the productive sector as well.

Blacksmithing occurs in the context not only of peasant society in Indonesia but also tribal society. The number of tribal smiths is very small in comparison with the number of peasant smiths. Moreover, tribal smiths often obtain their raw material supplies and market a portion of their products in cities on the coast. Thus they do interact with urban centers, although the residents of those centers usually belong to different ethnic groups.

Outside the field of anthropology the term "peasant" is little used. To economists and policymakers it has a quaint ring. Probably for this reason I have tended to use three other terms in the body of the book: village industry, rural industry, and small industry. "Village industry" and "rural industry" are self-explanatory and are perhaps the most satisfactory terms in that they connote nothing other than location. "Small industry" is used in a general way to mean production units with few workers, wherever located and however organized. In chapter 4, on relevant macrodata, the term has a different meaning. The Indonesian Bureau of Statistics (BPS) divides industries into four groups: cottage and household, small, medium, and large. Cottage and household industries are defined as those with 1-4 workers including the owner, and small industries are defined as those with 5-19 workers including the owner. Thus when BPS or the government speaks of "small" industries, it is usually referring to workshops. Blacksmithing really straddles these two categories, the size of units varying from two to eight.

I prefer to avoid the terms "cottage industry" and "household industry." These terms imply that the home is used as a workplace and that the labor force consists of unpaid family workers. Some rural industries fit this description, but many others do not. Blacksmithing, for example, is usually carried out in a separate building, some distance away from the house in the corner of the yard or in a field. In most blacksmithing villages a high proportion of the labor is hired. Many other rural industries build separate workshops or roofed-over work sheds and make use of hired labor.

The Marxist term "petty commodity production" is sometimes used by social scientists, mainly in Britain, to refer to village industries. Joel Kahn and his students use this term, as does Gillian Hart. Yet for many readers the term is confusing, because "commodity" has the more general meaning of agricultural cash crop. Furthermore, as Marx used the term it properly refers to enterprises where the producer is the sole owner of the means of production. It does not, therefore, include enterprises which use hired labor. Since many village enterprises in Indonesia do use hired labor, the term has been avoided in this book.

In development literature, village industries are usually lumped together with petty trade, service, and livestock operations under the cover term "nonfarm enterprises." Terms with a similar connotation are "off-farm enterprises" and "nonagricultural enterprises." Consultants who work with village industries are usually considered "nonfarm" or "small enterprise" specialists. Employment, likewise, is "nonfarm," "off-farm," or "nonagricultural." The term "nonagricultural" is acceptable in the Indonesian context, but the terms "nonfarm" and "off-farm" are meaningless and should be avoided. Indonesians have villages and fields, but they do not have farms in the western sense.

Dutch Colonial Views on Peasant Industries and Their "Inevitable Demise"

Peasant small industries are an ancient and very stable form of economic organization in Indonesia. The earliest stone and copper plate inscriptions in the old Javanese language reveal that peasant industries not unlike those of today were in existence by A.D. 800. Furthermore, they were already embedded in a recognizable social matrix which included marketplaces in a ring, each associated with one of the five named market days (Wisseman 1977, 199-201, 211).

Despite the apparent stability of peasant small industries in Indonesia over a period of at least twelve hundred years, Dutch colonial authorities began predicting their demise as early as the nineteenth century. To some extent this may have been wishful thinking. Until the advent of the "Ethical Course" in colonial policy in the 1890s, the Dutch, like colonial authorities elsewhere, enthusiastically followed a policy of trying to substitute European imports for the products of local industry. In this way, it was thought, they could create a magnet which would attract the wealth of the Indies toward Holland. Given that ideas about "stages" of economic development and social evolution were very much in the air in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, it is somewhat unsurprising that the demise of small industries should have been considered inevitable and even desirable. After all, how could the micro-enterprises of the Indonesian countryside possibly compete with the mighty factories of Europe?

Even the well-meaning architects of the Ethical Course did not have much faith in the survival ability of peasant small industries. It was still assumed during this period that direct, unbuffered contact between the economic forms of the East and those of the West would inevitably lead to the collapse of the former. It was only hoped that a breathing space could be provided by protectionist measures, during which time native industries would have a chance to evolve toward firms and factories resembling western models. There was never any doubt that this was the eventual goal, or that failure to achieve this goal would lead to the total collapse of native industries.

There was some disagreement among the Dutch as to the cause of the gap between native industries and those established along western lines. Colonial policymakers during the Ethical Course believed that lack of capital in the native sector was the main cause, and they blamed their predecessors for deliberately creating a capital drain. A second cause that they identified was lack of information and suitable technologies. To remedy these shortcomings they created the first credit programs and extension services in the Indies, what we would today call "development programs." Between 1901 and 1905 they organized a state pawnshop monopoly and a popular credit service, passed an industrial plan for developing cottage and small-scale industries, established departments of industry and agriculture, and organized extension services in these two sectors (Boeke 1953, 110-11). A system of protective tariffs and quotas was put in place. An official commission set up in 1902, the Commission for the Investigation into the Declining Living Standards of the Indonesian Population, employed nearly six hundred researchers to carry out studies of all aspects of village life on Java and Madura, including cottage industries. Between 1905 and 1920 this commission published thirty-five volumes of reports. In 1925 the Central Bureau of Statistics was set up and took over the task of accumulating quantitative data on social conditions in rural Indonesia (Koentjaraningrat 1975, 56-57).

During the early years of the Ethical Course it was hoped that Indonesian peasants would take an active part in improving their own welfare, through cooperatives and similar entities. But as time went on, the policy became increasingly paternalistic in its implementation. Development became something done to and for the natives, for their own good, whether they wanted it or not. This tradition of government meddling in the economic affairs of the peasants was firmly established during the Ethical Course and passed on to the extension services of the post-revolutionary Indonesian government.

(Continues...)




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