Essentialism and Epochalism
But, in the event, none of these things--Peasant Revolution, The Meeting of East and West, or The Cultural Resurgence of Islam-happened. What happened was the mass slaughter of 1965, in which somewhere between a quarter and three-quarters of a million people lost their lives. The blood bath in which the Sukarno regime with painful slowness drowned was the result of a vast complex of causes, and it would be absurd to reduce it to an ideological explosion. Yet, whatever the role of economic, political, psychological, or--for that matter-accidental factors in bringing it on (and, what is even harder to explain, sustaining it), it marked the end of a distinct phase in the progress of Indonesian nationalism.
The interplay of essentialism and epochalism is not, therefore, a kind of cultural dialectic, a logistic of abstract ideas, but a historical process as concrete as industrialization and as tangible as war. The issues are being fought out not simply at the doctrine and argument level--though there is a great deal of both--but much more importantly in the material transformations that the social structures of all the new states are undergoing. Ideological change is not an independent stream of thought running alongside social process and reflecting (or determining) it, it is a dimension of that process itself.
The impact within any new state society of the desire for coherence and continuity on the one hand and for dynamism and contemporaneity on the other is both extremely uneven and highly nuanced. The pull of indigenous tradition is felt most heavily by its appointed, and these days rather besieged, guardians--monks, mandarins, pandits, chiefs, ulema, and so on; that of what is usually referred to (not altogether accurately) as "the West," by the urban youth, the troubled schoolboys of Cairo, Djakarta, or Kinshasa who have surrounded words like shabb, pemuda, and jeunesse with an aura of energy, idealism, impatience, and menace. But stretching out between these all-too-visible extremes is the great bulk of the population, among whom essentialist and epochalist sentiments are scrambled into a vast confusion of outlooks, which, because the current of social change produced it, only the current of social change can sort out.
As illustrative cases, compressed to the dimensions of historical anecdotes, of the generation of this confusion and of the efforts now being made to dissolve it, Indonesia and Morocco can serve as well as any. My reason for choosing them is that they are the cases I happen to know firsthand and, in dealing with the interplay between institutional change and cultural reconstruction, the degree to which one can substitute a synoptic vision for an intimate one is limited. Their experiences are, as all social experiences, unique. But they are not so different either from one another or from those of new states as a whole as to be unable to reveal, in their very particularity, some generic outlines of the problems faced by societies struggling to bring what they like to call their "personality" into a workable alignment with what they like to call their "destiny."
In Indonesia, the essentialist element is, and long has been, extremely unhomogeneous. To an extent, this is true for virtually all the new states, which tend to be bundles of competing traditions gathered accidentally into concocted political frameworks rather than organically evolving civilizations. But in Indonesia, the outlands at once of India, China, Oceania, Europe, and the Middle East, cultural diversity has been for centuries both especially great and especially complex. The edge of everything classical, it has been itself shamelessly eclectic, [im]pended in a kind of half-solution in which contrasting, even opposed styles of life and world outlooks managed to coexist, if not wholly without tension, or even without violence, at least in some sort of usually workable, to-each-his-own sort of arrangement. This modus vivendi began to show signs of strain as early as the mid-nineteenth century, but its dissolution got genuinely under way only with the rise, from 1912 on, of nationalism; its collapse, which is still not complete, only in the revolutionary and postrevolutionary periods. For then what had been parallel traditionalisms, encapsulated in localities and classes, became competing definitions of the essence of the New Indonesia. What was once, to employ a term I have used elsewhere, a kind of "cultural balance of power" became an ideological war of a peculiarly implacable sort.
Thus, in apparent paradox (though, in fact, it has been a nearly universal occurrence in the new states) the move toward national unity intensified group tensions within the society by raising settled cultural forms out of their particular contexts, expanding them into general allegiances, and politicizing them. As the nationalist movement developed, it separated into strands. In the Revolution these strands became parties, each promoting a different aspect of the eclectic tradition as the only true basis of Indonesian identity. Marxists looked mainly to the folk melange of peasant life for the essence of the national heritage; the technicians, clerks, and administrators of the classe dirigeante to the Indic aestheticism of the Javanese aristocracy; and the more substantial merchants and landholders to Islam. Village populism, cultural elitism, religious puritanism: some differences of ideological opinion can perhaps be adjusted, but not these.
Rather than adjusted they were accentuated, as each strand attempted to graft a modernist appeal onto its traditionalist base. For the populist element, this was Communism; and the Indonesian Communist party, professing to discern an indigenous radical tradition in the collectivism, social egalitarianism, and anticiericalism of rural life, became the chief spokesman both for peasant essentialism, especially Javanese peasant essentialism, and for a revolutionary epochalism of the usual "rise of the masses" sort. For the salaried element, the modernist appeal was industrial society as found (or imagined) in Europe and the United States, and it proposed a marriage of convenience between oriental spirituality and occidental drive, between "wisdom" and "technique," that would somehow preserve cherished values while transforming the material basis of the society out of which those values had arisen. And for the pious, it was naturally enough religious reform, a celebration of the effort to renovate Islamic civilization in such a way as to regain its lost, rightful leadership of the moral, material, and intellectual progress of mankind. But, in the event, none of these things--Peasant Revolution, The Meeting of East and West, or The Cultural Resurgence of Islam-happened. What happened was the mass slaughter of 1965, in which somewhere between a quarter and three-quarters of a million people lost their lives. The blood bath in which the Sukarno regime with painful slowness drowned was the result of a vast complex of causes, and it would be absurd to reduce it to an ideological explosion. Yet, whatever the role of economic, political, psychological, or--for that matter-accidental factors in bringing it on (and, what is even harder to explain, sustaining it), it marked the end of a distinct phase in the progress of Indonesian nationalism. Not only were the slogans of unity ("one people, one language, one nation"; "from many, one"; "collective harmony"; and so on), which had not been easy to credit in the first place, now rendered implausible altogether, but the theory that the native eclecticism of Indonesian culture would yield easily to a generalized modernism clamped onto one or another element of it was definitively disproved. Multiform in the past, it would seem also to have to be multiform in the present.
In Morocco, the main obstacle to defining an integral national self has not been cultural heterogeneity, which in comparative terms has not been so very great, but social particularism, which in comparative terms has been extreme. Traditional Morocco consisted of an enormous, illorganized field of rapidly forming and rapidly dissolving political constellations on every level from the court to the camp, every basis from the mystical to the occupational, and every scale from the grand to the microscopic. The continuity of the social order lay less in any durability of the arrangements composing it or the groups embodying it, for the sturdiest of them were fugitive, than in the constancy of the processes by which, incessantly reworking those arrangements and redefining those groups, it formed, reformed, and re-reformed itself.
Insofar as this unsettled society had a center, it was the Alawite monarchy. But even in the best times the monarchy was hardly more than the largest bear in the garden. Embedded in a patrimonial bureaucracy of the most classic sort, a haphazard assortment of courtiers, chieftains, scribes, and judges, it struggled continuously to bring competing centers of power--of which there were literally hundreds, each resting on slightly different ground from the next--within its control. Although between its founding in the seventeenth century and its submission in 1912 it never altogether failed in this, it also never more than very partially succeeded. Not quite an anarchy and not quite a polity, the Moroccan state had, with its endemic particularism, just enough reality to persist.
Initially the effect of colonial domination, which only formally lasted about forty years, was to eviscerate the monarchy and turn it into a kind of Moorish tableau vivant; but intentions are one thing and events are another, and the ultimate result of European rule was to establish the king as the axis of the Moroccan political system rather more emphatically than had originally been the case. Though the earliest movements toward independence were undertaken by an uneasy, and as it turned out unstable, coalition of Western-educated intellectuals and neotraditional Muslim reformers, it was the arrest, exile, and triumphant restoration of Muhammed V in 1953-1955 that finally secured the independence movement, and, in securing it, turned the throne into the focus of Morocco's growing but still intermittent sense of nationhood. The country got, revived, ideologized, and better organized, its center back. But, it soon turned out, it also got, similarly improved, its particularism back.
Much postrevolutionary political history has demonstrated this fact: that however transformed, the crucial struggle still consists in an attempt by the king and his staff to sustain the monarchy as a viable institution in a society in which everything from landscape and kinship structure to religion and national character conspires to partition political life into disparate and disconnected exhibitions of parochial power. The first such exhibitions came with a series of so-called tribal uprisings--in part foreign-stimulated, in part the result of domestic political maneuvering, in part a return of the culturally repressed--that harried the new state during the first few years of independence. These were eventually put down with a combination of royal force and royal intrigue. But they were merely the first, rather elemental indications of what life was going to be like for a classical monarchy that, returning from the limbo of colonial subservience, had to establish itself as at once the authentic expression of the nation's soul and the appropriate vehicle of its modernization.
As Samuel Huntington has pointed out, the peculiar fate of traditional monarchies almost everywhere in the new states is to have also to be modernizing monarchies, or at least to look like such.6 A king content merely to reign can remain a political icon, a piece of cultural bric-abrac. But if he wants also to rule, as Moroccan kings have always very much wanted to do, he must make himself the expression of a powerful force in contemporary social life. For Muhammed V, and, since 1961, his son Hassan II, this force has been the emergence for the first time in the country's history of a Western-educated class large enough to permeate the entire society and discrete enough to represent a distinctive interest. Though their styles have been somewhat different--Hassan is remote where Muhammed was paternal--they have each struggled at once to organize and to place themselves at the head of The New Middle Class, The Intermediate Sectors, La Classe Dirigeante, The National Elite, or whatever this forming crowd of officials, officers, managers, educators, technicians, and publicists ought properly to be called.
Suppressing the tribal rebellions was thus less the end of the old order than the end of an ineffective strategy for dominating it. After 1958, the essentials of what has become the palace's established approach to securing a firmer grip on the Moroccan half-polity emerged --the construction of a constitutional monarchy, constitutional enough to attract the support of the educated elite and monarchical enough to maintain the substance of royal power. Desiring the fate of neither the English monarchy nor the Iraqi, Muhammed V, and even more Hassan II, have sought to create an institution which, invoking Islam, Arabism, and three centuries of Alawite rule, could draw its legitimacy from the past and, calling for rationalism, dirigisme, and technocracy, its authority from the present.
The stages in the recent history of this effort to turn Morocco, by a kind of political miscegenation, into what can only be called a royalist republic--the separation of the secularist, religious, and traditionalist wings of the nationalist movement and the consequent formation of a multiparty system in 1958-1959; the failure of the king's own coalition party, the Front for the Defense of Constitutional Institutions, to gain a parliamentary majority in the 1963 general elections; the royal suspension, ostensibly temporary, of parliament in 1965; the dime-novel murder (in France) of the major opponent of the whole project, Mehdi Ben Barka, in 1968--need not be traced out here. The point is that the tension between essentialism and epochalism is as observable in the vicissitudes of the postrevolutionary Moroccan political system as in those of the Indonesian; and if it has not as yet attained so flamboyant a denouement, and one may hope never will, it has been moving in the same direction of increasing unmanageability, as the relationship between what Edward Shils has called the "will to be modern" and what Mazzini called the "need to exist and have a name" grows steadily more involved.7 And though the form it takes and the speed at which it moves naturally vary, the same process is occurring in, if perhaps not all, at least the overwhelming majority of the new states as, the revolution accomplished, the point of it is sought.