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  • Published: 1 September 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760897246
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $15.99

Man of Contradictions

Joko Widodo and the struggle to remake Indonesia




The first English-language political biography of Joko Widodo, from the Lowy Institute.

From a riverside shack to the presidential palace, Joko Widodo surged to the top of Indonesian politics on a wave of hope for change. However, six years into his presidency, the former furniture maker is struggling to deliver the reforms that Indonesia desperately needs. Despite promising to build Indonesia into an Asian powerhouse, Jokowi, as he is known, has faltered in the face of crises, from COVID-19 to an Islamist mass movement.

Man of Contradictions, the first English-language biography of Jokowi, argues that the president embodies the fundamental contradictions of modern Indonesia. He is caught between democracy and authoritarianism, openness and protectionism, Islam and pluralism. Jokowi’s incredible story shows what is possible in Indonesia – and it also shows the limits.

  • Published: 1 September 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760897246
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $15.99

About the author

Ben Bland

Ben Bland is Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Lowy Institute. Ben was previously an award-winning correspondent for the Financial Times in Indonesia, China and Vietnam. His first book, Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow, was acclaimed as a ‘prescient, rollicking read’ by the Financial Times, a ‘David versus Goliath tale’ by the Sydney Morning Herald, and ‘lively’ and ‘illuminating’ by the Times Literary Supplement.

Praise for Man of Contradictions

A richly textured and nuanced treatment of the Indonesian leader Jokowi. Ben has drawn upon his considerable knowledge of Indonesia and the region to produce an indispensable guide to a critical yet often misunderstood leader and nation.

Kurt Campbell, former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

A sharp critique that deserves to be heard. From the point of view of a keen observer like Ben Bland, we can better understand Jokowi and, ultimately, better understand Indonesia's complexities.

Wahyu Dhyatmika, editor-in-chief, Tempo magazine

The book is quite brilliant in capturing the limits of a man’s ability to challenge and reform from within an entrenched political system.

Una Galani, Reuters

A landmark new book. It should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the leader of Australia’s giant northern neighbour.

James Massola, Sydney Morning Herald

Ben Bland’s penetrating biography of Indonesia’s Jokowi not only clarifies his subject’s contradictions, it does so in sparkling prose.

Milton Osborne, historian and author of Southeast Asia: An Introductory History

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