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Engineering Entrepreneurial Ethics: Islam after Development in Indonesia

La construction du l’éthique d’entrepreneur : l’islamisation du développement en Indonésie
Daromir  Rudnyckyj
p. 37-49


Cet article présente l’analyse d’un programme sociotechnique en lndonésie contemporaine dont le but est de façonner les codes de l’esprit d’entreprise par rapport à l’islam. En analysant ces efforts déployés pour développer la foi, nous affirmons qu’une nouvelle forme de coutumes islamiques est en train d’être introduite pour faciliter la réforme néolibérale des entreprises publiques en entreprises privées. Fondé sur plus de deux ans de recherches ethnographiques – la plupart menée auprès de l’entreprise publique Krakatau Steel – cet article explique comment ce que les Indonésiens appellent la « réforme spirituelle » est mobilisée pour prendre en charge la crise causée par la fin de la foi dans le développement. La foi dans le développement s’entend comme le développement dirigé par l’état et le projet (après la période coloniale) de modernisation et d’industrialisation nationale. Cet article décrit de quelle manière les réformateurs spirituels interprètent le Coran, l’histoire islamique, et les coutumes religieuses pour que l’islam puisse convenir aux principes de succès commerciaux que l’on trouve dans les manuels de gestion des ressources humaines, les textes liés au développement personnel et les séances de « life-coaching ». Alors que de nouveaux récits déclarent que l’Islam a toujours été hostile au capitalisme, cet article conclut que des preuves venant d’Asie Sud-Est démontrent comment, aujourd’hui, les musulmans de la région cherchent à réinterpréter l’Islam pour que la religion s’accordent aux exigences de la globalisation.

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My thanks go to all the employees of Krakatau Steel and the ESQ Leadership Center who shared their knowledge of Islam and development in Indonesia with me, especially Daenulhay, President Director of PT Krakatau Steel, and Ary Ginanjar and Rinaldi Agusyana of the ESQ Leadership Center. I am grateful for constructive criticism and insightful comments on this article I received from anonymous reviewers from Moussons and from participants in the conference “Anthropologie de l’éthique entrepreneuriale” organized by the Research Institute on Asian Studies (IrAsia) and the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme at the Aix-Marseille Université in November 2011. I am also grateful for the research and editorial assistance provided by Madeline Holden and Basit Karim Iqbal. Research for this essay was made possible with material support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Social Science Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I alone am responsible for any outstanding errors of fact or interpretation.

1In a large hall at Krakatau Steel’s education and training center in Banten, Indonesia, in mid-2004, I sat in an audience of about two hundred and fifty company employees as Ary Ginanjar delivered what he called “spiritual training.” The program combined human resources management, self-help, and life-coaching principles with Islam and sought to demonstrate how enhanced Islamic practice was indispensable to productivity and prosperity in the global economy. A thickset, jovial man with a well-tailored dark business suit and meticulously groomed facial hair above his lip, Ginanjar lectured against a background of the syrupy sounds of “Silk Road,” an instrumental composition by the Japanese musician Kitaro. The new age music created an otherworldly ambience that framed an otherwise pragmatic lesson on how to be successful in an increasingly competitive economic landscape.

2Asserting that Muslim practices and aspects of Islamic doctrine and history were conducive to entrepreneurship, Ginanjar represented global competition as a divine challenge that could be met through the intensification of Islamic faith. Deploying a richly illustrated and technologically sophisticated multimedia presentation using Microsoft’s PowerPoint program, Ginanjar lectured on the asmaul husna, 99 characteristics attributed to Allah by Islamic scholars. He said that these ethical dispositions, including openness, honesty, mutual respect, discipline, and cooperation offered the secret to corporate success. He instructed the company’s employees that these characteristics were inherent in all humans, but were often “blocked” by negative influences. However, he affirmed that the key to success in business, and in life, lay in cultivating these qualities. He immediately juxtaposed this lecture on the asmaul husna with another slide titled “International Business Survey,” which detailed a survey covering the twenty most admired characteristics of corporate leaders around the world. In rapt tones, we were told that each of these twenty characteristics were part of the asmaul husna. Thus, honesty, the most admired characteristic of corporate employees according to the survey, was likened to Al-Haqq, or the “truest.” Visionary, second on the list, was asserted to be the same as Al-Bashir, or the “all-seeing.”

3The asmaul husna were subsequently invoked as qualities which employees should cultivate. The next slide was entitled “The Culture of Work (Budaya Kerja) at Krakatau Steel,” and listed four bullet-pointed attributes: discipline (disiplin), openness (keterbukaan), mutual respect (saling hormat), and working together (kerja sama). Ginanjar said that these were all “characteristics from the names of Allah” that employees should seek to embody in their everyday practices. Thus, participants could become better Muslims and better corporate employees by cultivating the characteristics with which Allah had endowed humanity.

4Later in the afternoon, Ginanjar reminded us of the characteristics he had introduced in the morning and enjoined every employee to embody them:

  • 1 The purest.
  • 2 The most dependable.

Remember what we learned this morning about the asmaul husna and the importance of the value of transparency in every company! The importance of upholding the characteristics of Allah in every company![...]Recall first the holder of Al-Quddus,1 Allah. Recall Al-Wakil,2 Allah. How to be disciplined (disiplin), how to be open (terbuka), how to be cooperative (kerja sama), how to embody mutual respect (saling hormat) that are all part of His name! If we embody His characteristics then we will increase performance, which will increase prosperity! By remembering Him we can create the work culture that we always desire. Can we succeed without these characteristics? Without absorbing these qualities into our bodies? [...]We need to implement a work culture not just there on the wall. It will all be in vain if we do not stick it in the walls of our hearts!

5The audience listened in rapt attention as the huge projection screens behind Ginanjar displayed three serial images of a corporate logo that simultaneously resembled electrons circling a nucleus, planets in orbit around a sun, and the “universal tawaf” which Ginanjar explained was the direction that Allah had ordained all things to circulate.

6Thus, according to Ginanjar the challenges faced by Krakatau Steel required nothing less than cultivating an ethics conducive to commerce among corporate employees. This was precisely what he sought to bring about through three days of employee training in which he and his staff would seek to demonstrate that success in what he called a “global era” could be achieved through enhancing Islamic faith. It was a message that managers and other employees of Krakatau Steel found compelling as their faith in Indonesia’s decades-long project of state-led nationalist developmentalism appeared to be about out of steam. Proponents of enhancing Islamic faith sought to enable the company to meet unprecedented challenges in the wake of thirty-two years of authoritarian political rule, an economy that was no longer configured in mainly national terms, and the looming specter of privatization that cast a long shadow over the company.

Development and Islam in Industrial Indonesia

7These efforts to cultivate an ethics of entrepreneurship grounded in Islam to meet the challenges posed by transnational economic integration contribute to understanding how religion is reconciled with capitalism and the demands of globalization (Hefner 2010; O’Neill 2010; Osella & Osella 2009; Wiegele 2005; Yang 2004). They further shed light on how Islam is mobilized to address challenges of globalization (Fischer 2011; Roy 2004; Silvey 2007; Soares 2005). My approach to efforts to mobilize Islam to cultivate an ethics of entrepreneurship builds on recent research on Islam to show how self-styled “spiritual” reformers seek to make Islam commensurable with the demands of modernity (Atia 2012; Deeb 2006; Marsden 2008; Ong 1990; Silverstein 2008). While some have seen efforts to reconcile Islam and modernity as suggesting a “conservative revolution” (Haenni 2005), I seek instead to show how the assemblage of Islamic practice and entrepreneurial ethics marks a break with earlier forms of religious authority. Indonesia plays a critical role in these efforts. Indeed, this country, which contains the largest quantity of Muslim citizens of any nation in the world, has been the home to striking, and occasionally startling, efforts to reconcile Islam and modernity (George 2009; Hefner 2000; Hoesterey 2008; Jones 2007; Jones 2010; Rinaldo 2008). Scholars of Indonesia have thus drawn attention to the myriad ways in which Indonesians have sought to reconcile religious and cultural practices with the cultural forms and institutions characteristic of modern life (Aspinall 2009; Boellstorff 2003; Bowen 1998; Luvaas 2009; Strassler 2010; Welker 2012).

8Before demonstrating how spiritual reformers sought to engineer an entrepreneurial ethic through the intensification of Islamic piety, I provide some background on both Krakatau Steel and the unprecedented program of Islamic spiritual reform that was introduced at this sprawling steel production operation. The company is located in Banten, at the western edge of the island of Java. Banten is a new province, founded in 2000 but based on the boundaries of an early modern Islamic sultanate. Historically, Banten was a powerful Muslim sultanate during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, primarily due to the fact that it was a cosmopolitan node in the trade networks that connected the Java Sea with the Indian and Pacific Oceans (Guillot 1992; Guillot, Ambary, and Dumarcay 1990; Lombard and Lombard-Salmon 1975). Furthermore, unlike other Muslim trading ports on the north coast of Java like Demak, Cirebon, and Giri, Banten did not fall under the sway of the Mataram Empire, which expanded from central Java to cover most of the island by the mid-seventeenth century (Lombard 1990). Michael Williams argues that Islam historically played a central role in Banten because it was never subjected to the kingdoms that emerged in central Java (Williams 1990). One illustration of the high degree of Islamic piety in the region is that by the nineteenth century Banten had the highest per capita proportion of inhabitants who had completed the hajj of any other region of Java (Kartodirdjo 1966: 332). Today Bantenese are considered by many Indonesians to be second only to the Acehnese in the strength of their faith.

  • 3 Susanne Naafs provides a useful illustration of the social dynamics of this region of Java in the w (...)

9After the Indonesian revolution of 1945-1949, the region was the site of several development initiatives. Banten’s accessibility to sea-based trade networks was central to the 1956 decision by Sukarno’s nationalist government to build, with Soviet support, Indonesia’s first steel works in the region (Purwadi et al. 2003). Although construction ceased following the military coup of 1965 that brought Suharto to power, it was resuscitated in the early 1970s as a centerpiece of national development under the import substitution industrialization prong of Indonesia’s New Order development strategy (Hill 2000; Rock 2003). Krakatau Steel became central to the project of modernization that was a preoccupation of Indonesia’s long-time strongman president, Suharto. The company became the backbone of a sprawling industrial region located adjacent to the town of Cilegon at the western edge of the island of Java.3

  • 4 The historical significance of Krakatau Steel for Indonesian nationalism is well illustrated by Suz (...)

10It is crucial to note the critical place that Krakatau Steel plays in the Indonesian national imaginary. The company produced a material that was viewed as absolutely critical to the state’s nationalist project of modernization. It occupied an iconic position in the nation receiving frequent visits from the Indonesian President and other official dignitaries.4 Krakatau Steel was a paradigmatic site for the emergence of what James Ferguson has referred to as “faith in development”: the optimistic modernist conviction that importing technology to facilitate industrialization would bring economic growth and enhanced living standards (Ferguson 1999). The 1998 Asian financial crisis, the end of the Suharto regime, and the increasing integration of Indonesia into a wider global economy have called faith in development into question. From the 1970s until the mid-1990s, Krakatau Steel had been the recipient of billions of dollars in state development funds. For years state investment guaranteed the company’s viability, as it was able to keep up with advances in steel production technology. However, such investment was brought to an end in 1998 after the near bankruptcy of the Indonesian government. Tariffs on imported steel that had long protected the company from international competition were fully eliminated in April 2004. Further, China emerged as a threat to the Indonesian steel industry and employees feared that once the Chinese economy began to slow down, China would flood the Indonesian market with cheap, imported steel. Furthermore, new legal protections for workers offered unprecedented possibilities for political mobilization by factory employees, including the formation of a new labor union (Warouw 2005). Finally, and perhaps most ominously for some employees, the Indonesian government has proposed privatizing Krakatau Steel, which could trigger sweeping job losses for members of a workforce that previously were able to count on lifetime employment.

11These changes represented a reevaluation of Krakatau Steel’s symbolic and material relationship to the nation and its project of developmental modernization. Given the structural changes taking place, the company’s existence could no longer be justified according to its status as an icon of modernization and industrialization. The reevaluation of the company’s position in the nation was often evident during the period I carried out research for this project (2003-2005 with a shorter return visit in 2008). One foreman in the slab steel plant at Krakatau Steel explained to me that, prior to the late-1990s, the “the social was the most important and profit was secondary,” but “now profit is number one and the social mission [misi sosial] is number two.” He said that this “social mission” was premised upon “padat karya,” which literally translates as “dense work” and refers to the past practice of hiring more workers than necessary to operate a business. This practice is common at many Indonesian businesses, including both state-owned enterprises and private corporations, as a trip to any department store in the country will attest. At Krakatau Steel, a thinly veiled debate pitted those who sought to preserve the company’s earlier mission to “support the livelihoods of the masses” (hajat hidup orang banyak) against those that desired to make the company competitive in an increasingly global steel market by subjecting its operations and workforce to stricter cost-benefits standards.

12Managers realized that employee motivation and work ethics were among the foremost obstacles to meeting these economic imperatives. For years employees of the company had been given generous salaries and benefits under the presumption that state-led modernization was as much a social project as a commercial one, if not more so. Workers had grown comfortable with this arrangement and in many of the plant facilities that I visited there often seemed to be a surplus of workers compared to the actual amount of labor that was being performed, at least under normal circumstances. At stake in the imperative to efficiency was the rationalization of a latter day incarnation of ethics that Clifford Geertz, in his now classic book Agricultural Involution, called “work spreading” (Geertz 1963). Displaced from the agrarian countryside, practices similar to those observed by Geertz became part of the fabric of industrial development, in so far as this displacement enabled the creation of a vast number of well-paid employment positions.

13At Krakatau Steel, patterns of work spreading were evident in one especially intensive portion of the production process where molten steel is cast into solid slabs, weighing 10 to 30 tons each. Other company employees explained that workers in the slab steel plant are more “hot-headed” and attributed their emotional volatility to the dusty, deafening, sweltering climate of the plant. Hariyanto had the arduous task of ensuring the smooth exchange of molten steel from giant ladles into the massive casting machine. He took turns with a co-worker in half-hour blocks to monitor this transfer. The heat and noise generated in this portion of the steel-making process made it a physically demanding job, but Hariyanto said that rotating the job with another employee made it tolerable because the hardship was “divided in two” (dibagi dua). Although the work was difficult and under compensated, he told me that it was better than anything else he could find. He was aware, however, that the job could likely be performed by a single employee and feared that his position, a single task performed by two people, would be made redundant should privatization occur.

14To address the problem of employee motivation and enhance worker productivity, Krakatau Steel managers sought to develop the Islamic faith of employees by contracting a Jakarta-based company, the ESQ Leadership Center, to implement Emotional and Spiritual Quotient training at the company. The creator of ESQ, Ary Ginanjar, has developed an elaborate system, called the “ESQ model,” that suggests that business ethics conducive to commercial success and entrepreneurship are present in the five pillars of Islam and the six pillars of Muslim faith (iman). He has drawn other ideas for the program from business management, self-help, and life coaching sessions, like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that have greatly expanded in North America, Europe, and Asia in recent decades (Matza 2009; McGee 2005; O’Neill 2012; Thrift 1998; Thrift 1999). Through the multi-day training sessions that his company offers, Ginanjar stresses that Islamic piety should not only be restricted to religious worship, such as during one’s daily prayers. Rather, Islam should animate all of one’s worldly activity, from interactions with one’s family to everyday work in the world. Ginanjar explained that “at the root of Indonesia’s political and economic crisis is a moral crisis” and said that “although most Indonesians are Muslims,” they do not adhere to the tenets of Islam “so at the moment here religion is only like a ritual...just a ritual without spirituality.” He conceives of his spiritual reform initiative as a way to redress the moral crisis that is at the root of Indonesia’s crisis of faith in development.

15At Krakatau Steel ESQ training sessions were held once or twice per month. They were most often held in the large multi-purpose room of the factory’s education and training center. The sessions usually ran from Friday through Sunday. The first two days started at 7:00 a.m. and lasted until just before the maghrib prayers, which usually begin around 6:00 p.m. The final day included the gripping climax of Ginanjar’s program: a simulation of three of the main rituals that take place during the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Most compelling for participants was a recreation of the circulation around the kaaba, the central shrine in the main mosque in Mecca. An SUV-sized replica of the kaaba was placed in the center of the room and participants rotated around it chanting in Arabic “there is no God but Allah.” Participants reenacted the stoning of jamrat al-aqabah, in which pilgrims hurl rocks at three representations of the devil, by hurling small wads of paper at three demonic images elaborately drawn and posted on flip charts. They also simulated the sa’i, a ritual that consists of running seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah in Mecca, by running back and forth across the room seven times. These reenactments were designed to intensify the Islamic piety of corporate employees and, in so doing, to increase their corporate productivity. This final day ran until almost midnight.

16The training was structured through a sophisticated Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, consisting not only of graphs, charts, tables, and a litany of bullet points, but also with spliced film clips, colorful photographs, and popular music. The information conveyed was culled from a variety of web sites, including those of the Harvard Business School. The training was delivered primarily as an interactive lecture in which the main trainer would alternate between engaging with the audience in the familiar style of a television talk show host and proceeding to deliver fiery and profoundly emotive lectures asking for collective atonement from Allah.

17These elaborate spiritual training programs mix the latest human resources management theory with collective prayers and lessons in Islamic history. Ginanjar asserts that a work ethic conducive to business success is present in the five pillars of Islam. For example, the fourth pillar, the duty to fast during Ramadan, is recast as a directive for self-control and individual accountability. The third pillar, the duty to give charity, is taken as a divine endorsement of “synergy” and exercising “win-win” approaches in both business transactions and relations with coworkers. Ginanjar describes the prophet Muhammad as the model for a successful corporate entrepreneur and participants are encouraged to emulate his example in business and trade.

18In just five years, ESQ grew spectacularly; by 2012, over 1 million people had completed the training program. Although Krakatau Steel was one of the first companies to embrace it, the program has now spread across Indonesia to some of the country’s most prominent governmental institutions and state-owned firms including Pertamina (the national oil company), Telkom (the country’s largest telephone company), and Garuda (the nation’s flag air carrier). Current and former military generals are also avid participants in ESQ and several sessions have been at the Army’s officer candidate training school in Bandung (SESKOAD). Recently ESQ has met its goal of becoming a national movement, establishing branch offices in 30 out of 33 Indonesian provinces. In late 2005 the ESQ Leadership Center broke ground for a 25-storey office tower and convention center in south Jakarta funded in part through investment shares sold to past participants. When I returned to Indonesia in December 2008, large-scale spiritual training programs were being conducted in the already completed conference center portion of the building. Finally, ESQ has “gone global,” the first overseas ESQ training having been held in April 2006 in Kuala Lumpur and, in 2007, regularly scheduled ESQ trainings were being delivered in Malaysia on a bimonthly basis. Mahatir Mohamed, the former Malaysian Prime Minister, endorsed the program after it was introduced to Malaysia. In addition, ESQ has been held in Singapore, the Netherlands, Australia, and Brunei; in late 2008, Ginanjar brought the program to Houston and Washington, DC.

Worshipping Work: Instilling Entrepreneurial Ethics

19Above the cavernous half-kilometer long floor of Krakatau Steel’s hot strip mill, where 20-ton slabs were heated to over 1000 degrees and thunderously flattened into smooth sheets of coiled steel, a huge banner in all capital letters read “HARD WORK IS PART OF OUR WORSHIP.” Similar signs were posted in other mills. Making work into religious worship was not merely an Orwellian slogan inscribed on various factory edifices. As the quotes from Ary Ginanjar above illustrate, spiritual reformers sought to make this slogan an embodied practice through transforming work into religious worship. This entailed inculcating the ethical maxim that work in the world demonstrated one’s devotion to God. According to one human resources manager, Sukrono, this intervention was the result of an updated reading of the Qur’an. He explained:

When we were a small developing country in the 1970s we thought that worship [ibadah] meant praying, giving alms [zakat], or going on the hajj, but this is not true. In fact, from studying the Qur’an we know that passages dealing with these things are only about 20 percent of the content, the rest of the Qur’an is about human relations. The crucial thing is that in everyday activity—waking up and going to work, doing family errands, and so forth—one’s intentions [niat] are toward worship […]. In the hadith there is the story of Muhammad and the stone maker. Muhammad saw two people. One was always at the mosque, engaged in ritual. The other was working so hard, providing for his family, that he didn’t have time for ritual. Yet, it was he who went to heaven while the former did not.

20Here Sukrono illustrates how Islamic worship had been interpreted as a form of worldly motivation. He focuses on three of the five pillars of Islam: praying, giving alms, and going on the hajj pilgrimage. The faith in development that had guided Indonesian modernization during the New Order had proceeded under the assumption of a separation of religion from the economy. In contrast, after the end of the Suharto regime managers like Sukrono recast the Qur’an as a human resources management manual. In so doing he echoed how Ary Ginanjar had transformed the five pillars of Islam into recipes for corporate success, for example by rebranding zakat as “strategic collaboration”. In fact, Sukrono finds evidence for what Max Weber called “inner-worldly asceticism” (Weber 1958) in the hadith. Fulfilling one’s duty to God is not restricted to following the five pillars of Islam, or what Ary Ginanjar called mere “ritual” activity. Rather, following the principles that Muhammad illustrated during his life, everyday action in the world such as working and supporting one’s family constitutes religious activity equal to observing the required rituals.

21Krakatau Steel employees who had participated in ESQ had similar interpretations about what work as worship meant. Yanto, who worked in the Krakatau Steel credit union made the connection between religious practice and labor through time and discipline, invoking the rationalization of conduct as characteristic of both. He said that a good Muslim must be constantly attentive to time because of the Islamic requirement to pray five times per day at predetermined hours. Likewise work at the company required constant attention to the clock. Yanto said, “I have to be sure to wake up on time, be to work on time, take my breaks at the right time.[…]It is the same with prayer, it has to be done at the right time. One has to be disciplined in both religion and work.”

22Proponents of ESQ saw worshipping work by combining Islam and human resources principles as capable of resolving the failings of Indonesian development. I originally met Haidar when he was working as an instructor for the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People training program at Krakatau Steel. He expressed frustration at the routines exhibited by employees of state-owned companies. He had formerly worked for a major multi-national corporation in Jakarta. Haidar was dismayed that he had heard employees joking that KS (the acronym for Krakatau Steel by which the company was known across Indonesia) actually stood for “kerja santai or “relaxed work.” He found it scandalous that one day, after he had concluded a day of Seven Habits training, a Krakatau Steel employee commented as they were leaving the training facility that it was “almost dark…as if he thought it was unusual to leave work so late. But in Jakarta it is totally normal. No one leaves work until after dark!” He was likewise aghast at how lackadaisical Krakatau Steel employees were when it came to reporting for work. “They show no embarrassment at arriving 10, 15, even 20 minutes late! And they do it over and over! They have no shame about it!” His comments illustrate how proponents of spiritual reform contracted by state-owned enterprises sought to turn work into worship by instilling greater self-discipline among corporate employees.

23Haidar became convinced that ESQ was more effective at increasing the motivation of Indonesian workers than other forms of applied management knowledge, like the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People training. He attributed this to the fact that ESQ is grounded in Islamic principles and thus would resonate more widely with the predominantly Muslim population of Indonesia. He became increasingly disconsolate with the ability of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to achieve the transformation in work ethics that he thought was necessary for the country to prosper and several months after our conversation Haidar stopped working for the company that delivers the trainings in Indonesia, PT Dunamis, and began working for ESQ.

Conclusion: Developing Islam

24This article analyzes what Timothy Mitchell calls a “socio-technical arrangement” that is designed to develop Islam in contemporary Indonesia (Mitchell 2011). This entailed the deployment of new techniques to optimize human conduct by creating a new type of laboring subject congruent with the twilight of state-led development and Krakatau Steel’s integration into broader transnational economic circuits. I have shown how reformers in Indonesia designed a mode of Islamic practice that they conceived of as conducive to entrepreneurial ethics. These ethics in turn were expected to facilitate corporate competitiveness and market productivity. In asserting that the principles for success found in human resources, life-coaching, and self-help primers were latent in the prescriptions for a devout Muslim life contained in the Qur’an and the hadiths, these efforts reveal how creating an entrepreneurial ethic was conceived of as a technical problem. By intensifying the Islamic practice of employees, ESQ trainers expected to ensure the viability of Krakatau Steel given the end of the prominent role that the state had played in facilitating industrial modernization, the looming specter of privatization, an economy no longer defined in national terms, and the formation of a new and potentially more confrontational labor union.

25My account of the formation of these ethics of entrepreneurship show how religion does not lie outside the realm of calculation or in opposition to economic action (Comaroff & Comaroff 2000). Rather, building on Weber’s insights, I have shown how religion can be deployed with decidedly rational means and calculative ends (Weber 1990). The creation of a spiritual economy entails a commitment to worldly asceticism. It is precisely this asceticism that was deemed conducive to corporate survival at Krakatau Steel in the face of the end of state support and an increasingly integrated transnational economy.

26The mobilization of Islam to address the challenge of globalization contradicts some influential accounts of the economic ethics of Islam. Spiritual reformers in Indonesia seek to cultivate an ethics of entrepreneurship to facilitate the economic competitiveness of state-owned enterprises in the wake of the end of state investment in industrial capacity. Islam served as the most readily available means through which such ethical dispositions could be formulated.

27Such efforts to invoke Islam suggest an alternative view of the religion to that commonly found in the popular media and even by some scholars such as Timur Kuran. In seeking to understand why Islamic countries have suffered from underdevelopment in contrast to neighbouring states across the Mediterranean, Kuran argues that aspects of Muslim legal practice placed certain institutional constraints on economic growth in the region (Kuran 2011). He further asserts that Islamic law hindered the emergence of large-scale firms and the ability of entrepreneurs to mobilize the volume of capital essential to building the enterprises characteristic of modern capitalism. I do not dispute the facts of Kuran’s analysis of Middle Eastern history. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the history of Islam dominates the lives of Muslims in the present. Thus, rather than focusing on how Islam has, in Kuran’s words, “held back” economic development, I have shown how contemporary Muslims are seeking to redress the very problem that Kuran identifies. Rather than seeing Islam as an obstacle to development and modernization, I have shown how some Muslims are developing unexpected and extraordinary techniques to make Islam compatible with globalization and modernity.

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1 The purest.

2 The most dependable.

3 Susanne Naafs provides a useful illustration of the social dynamics of this region of Java in the wake of the end of the Suharto regime (Naafs 2012).

4 The historical significance of Krakatau Steel for Indonesian nationalism is well illustrated by Suzanne Moon (Moon 2009).

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Daromir  Rudnyckyj, « Engineering Entrepreneurial Ethics: Islam after Development in Indonesia »Moussons, 21 | 2013, 37-49.

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Daromir  Rudnyckyj

Universtity of Victoria, Pacific and Asian Studies,Victoria, V8W 3P4, Canada. Daromir Rudnyckyj is Associate Professor of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Victoria, Canada. His research addresses globalization, religion, development, Islamic finance, and the state in Southeast Asia, focusing on Indonesia and Malaysia. His book, Spiritual Economies: Islam, Globalization, and the Afterlife of Development (Cornell University Press, 2010), was awarded a Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society for the best first book in social and cultural anthropology. His current research examines the globalization of Islamic finance and analyzes efforts to make Kuala Lumpur the “New York of the Muslim World” by transforming it into the central node in a transnational system of Islamic financial action.

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