Gotong Royong: An Indigenous Institution of Communality and Mutual Assistance in Indonesia

  • L. Jan SlikkerveerEmail author
Part of the Cooperative Management book series (COMA)


This Chapter addresses a widely spread traditional institution in Indonesia known as Gotong Royong in which the active involvement of the indigenous communities has also contributed to the successful implementation of the ‘bottom-up’ approach of Integrated Community-Managed Development (ICMD). Since such local institutions are part of a wider system of indigenous knowledge, practices and beliefs based on the traditional cosmologies, they are crucial for the integration of global systems from outside and local systems from inside the communities. The active involvement of these indigenous institutions—so far largely ignored in development policies and programmes—have shown to enhance local participation in development-oriented intervening activities from outside. Embarking on the dual spirit of the communal service and mutual assistance of Gotong Royong, which has survived for many generations to provide a strong identity to Indonesia’s village culture, the Chapter also underscores that since independence it has become a pan-Indonesian institution providing a binding force among the various sub-cultures of Indonesia with important cultural and socio-political significance for the unity of the nation. Furthermore, the debate on communalism versus individualism is described in relation to the dimension of the collectivism of Gotong Royong. The Chapter concludes that the (re-)integration of these indigenous institutions into development policies and programmes can indeed contribute to increased local involvement and participation of all community members, and as such pertains to the realisation of poverty reduction and sustainable development throughout Indonesia.


  1. Agung, A. A. G. (2005). Bali endangered paradise? Tri Hita Karana and the conservation of the Island’s biocultural diversity. Ph.D. Dissertation. Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme. LEAD Studies No. 1. Leiden University. xxv + ill., p. 463.Google Scholar
  2. Ambaretnani, P. (2012). Paraji and Bidan in Rancaekek: Integrated medicine for advanced partnerships among traditional birth attendants and community midwives in the Sunda Area of West Java, Indonesia. Ph.D. Dissertation. Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme. LEAD Studies No. 7. Leiden University. xx + ill., p. 265.Google Scholar
  3. Baland, J. M., Bonjean, L., Guirkinger, C., & Ziparo, R. (2016). The economic consequences of mutual help in extended families. Journal of Development Economics, 123(2016), 38–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ball, R. (2001). Individualism, Collectivism, and Economic Development. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 573, 57–84. Culture and Development: International Perspectives (January 2001).Google Scholar
  5. Banfield, E. C. (1958). The moral basis of a backward society. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  6. Barnouw, A. J. (1946). Cross currents of culture in Indonesia. Far Eastern Quarterly 5(2), 143–151 (February 1946).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bowen, J. (1986). On the political construction of tradition: Gotong Royong in Indonesia. Journal of Asian Studies, 45(3), 545–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Breman, J. (1980). The village on Java and the early-colonial state. Rotterdam: CASPI.Google Scholar
  9. Brewer, P., & Venaik, S. (2011). Individualism-collectivism in Hofstede and GLOBE. Palgrave Macmillan Journals, 42, 436–445.Google Scholar
  10. Coate, S., & Ravallion, M. (1993). Reciprocity without commitment: characterization and performance of informal insurance arrangements. Journal of Development Economics, 40(1), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Josselin de Jong, P. E. (1980). The Netherlands: Structuralism before Levi-Strauss. In S. Diamond (Ed.), Anthropology: Ancestors and heirs (pp. 243–257). The Hague: Mouton.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Djen Amar, S. C. (2010). Gunem Catur in the Sunda Region of West Java: Indigenous communication on the MAC plant knowledge and practice within the Arisan in Lembang. Ph.D. Dissertation. Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme. LEAD Studies No. 6. Leiden University. xx + ill., p. 218.Google Scholar
  13. Dokumentasi Kebudayaan Saera. (1982). Proyek Inventarisasi dan Dokumentasi Kebudayaan Daerah - Sistim Gotong Royong dalam Masyarakat Pedesaan Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta. Jakarta: Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.Google Scholar
  14. Forshee, J. (2006). Culture and customs of Indonesia. Westport CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  16. Geertz, C. (1983). Local knowledge: fact and law in comparative perspective. In: Geertz, C (Ed.), Local knowledge: Further essays in interpretive anthropology (pp. 167–234). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  17. Hahn, R. A. (1999). Anthropology in public health: Bridging Differences in culture and society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hansen, G. E. (1973). The Politics and Administration of Rural Development in Indonesia. Research Monograph No. 9. Berkeley: University of California, Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies.Google Scholar
  19. Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.Google Scholar
  20. Jason, L. A., Luna, R. D., Alvarez, J., & Stevens, E. (2016). Collectivism and individualism in Latino recovery Homes. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, pp. 1–14 (26 April 2016).Google Scholar
  21. Jay, R. (1969). Javanese villagers. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (KBBI). (2016). Gotong Royong, The Indonesian Dictionary. URL:
  23. Knack, S., & Keefer, P. (1997). Does social capital have an economic payoff? A cross-country investigation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112, 1251–1288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Koentjaraningrat. (1961). Some sociological-anthropological observations on Gotong Royong practices in two villages in Central Java. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Modern Indonesia Project.Google Scholar
  25. Koentjaraningrat. (1966). Bride-price and adoption in the Kinship relations of the Bgu of West Irian. Etrhnology, 5(3), 233–244.Google Scholar
  26. Koentjaraningrat. (1974). Kebudayaan, Mewtalitet dan Pembangunan [Culture, mentality and development]. Jakarta: Gramedia.Google Scholar
  27. Kusumaningrum, A. S. N., Evi, Z., A’yun, M. Q., & Fadhilah, L. N. (2015). “Gotong Royong Sebagai Jati Diri Indonesia”. In Proceedings of the National Seminar “Selamatkan Generasi Bangsa dengan Membentuk Karakter Berbasis Kearifan Lokal”. Surakarta: Rumah Hebat Indonesia.Google Scholar
  28. Mubyarto. (1982). A fixation of agricultural policy in Indonesia. In Hainsworth, G. B. (Ed.), Village-level modernization in Southeast Asia (pp. 27–42). Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
  29. Nasroen, M. (1967). Falsafah Indonesia. Jakarta: Bulan Bintang.Google Scholar
  30. Ortiz, F. (1947). Cuban counterpoint: Tobacco and sugar. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc.Google Scholar
  31. Oyserman, D., Coon, H. M., & Kemmelmeier, M. (2002). Rethinking individualism and collectivism: Evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 3–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lima, P. (1977). Uraian Pancasila [The Composition of the Pancasilal. Jakarta: Mutiara.Google Scholar
  33. Parks, C. D., & Vu, A. D. (1994). Social dilemma behavior of individuals from highly individualist and collectivist cultures. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 38, 708–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Putnam, R. (1993). What makes democracy work?. National Civic Review, 82(2).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rochmadi, N. (2012). Gotong Royong sebagai common identity dalam Kehidupan Bertetangga Negara-Negara ASEAN: Jurnal Forum Sosial. Malang: Universitas Negeri Malang.Google Scholar
  36. Rutledge, B. (2011). Cultural differences—Individualism versus collectivism. URL:
  37. Saefullah, K. (2019). Gintingan in Subang: An Indigenous Institution for Sustainable Community-Based Development in the Sunda Region of West Java, Indonesia. Ph.D. Dissertation. Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme. LEAD Studies No. 11. Leiden University.Google Scholar
  38. Schefold, R. (1988). Indonesia in focus: Ancient traditions-modern times. Santa Monica: Marketing Services.Google Scholar
  39. Schwartz, S. J., Unger, J. B., Des Rosiers, S. E., Lorenzo-Blanco, E. I., Zamboanga, B. L., Huang, S., et al. (2014). Domains of acculturation and their effects on substance use and sexual behavior in recent hispanic immigrant adolescents. Prevention Science, 15, 385–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schwartz, S. J., Weisskirch, R. S., Hurley, E. A., Zamboanga, B. L., Park, I. J. K., Kim, S. Y., et al. (2010). Communalism, familism and filial piety: Are they birds of a collectivist feather? Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 16(4), 548–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Situngkir, H., & Prasetyo, Y. E. (2012). On social and economic spheres: An observation of the “Gantangan” Indonesian tradition. Personal RePEc Archive Paper No. 18097, Munich: MPRA.Google Scholar
  42. Slikkerveer, L. J. (1990). Plural medical systems in the horn of Africa: The legacy of “Sheikh” Hippocrates. London: Kegan Paul International.Google Scholar
  43. Slikkerveer, L. J. (1999). Ethnoscience, ‘TEK’, and its application to conservation. In D. A. Posey (Ed.), Cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity: A complementary contribution to the global biodiversity assessment (pp. 167–260). Nairobi/London: UNDP/Intermediate Technology Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Slikkerveer, L. J. (2014). Local Institutions in Indonesia. In Lecture Notes. Master Course on Integrated Microfinance Management, Bandung. Faculty of Economics and Business, Universities Padjadjaran.Google Scholar
  45. Soekarno. (1965). Dibawah Bendera Revolusi [Under the Flag of Revolution], Vol. 2. Jakarta: Panitya Penerbit.Google Scholar
  46. Tahir, I. (2013). A village remembered: Kampong Radin Mas, 1800s-1973. Singapore: OPUS Editorial Private Limited.Google Scholar
  47. Tanoesudibjo, H. (2016). Membangkitkan Nilai Gotong Royong, Daerah dan Desa, Politik Hukum Keamanan, September 2016. URL:
  48. Taylor, P., & Aragon, L. V. (1991). Beyond the Java sea: Art of Indonesia’s outer islands. New York: H.N. Abrahams.Google Scholar
  49. Triandis, H. (1990). Cross-cultural studies of individualism and collectivism. In Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 37, 41–133.Google Scholar
  50. UCEO. (2016). Gotong Royong and benefits of Gotong Royong for life. Surabaya: Ciputra University.
  51. van Wouden, F. A. E. (1968). Types of social structure in Eastern Indonesia. Leiden: Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wagner III, J. A. (1995). Studies of individualism-collectivism: Effects on cooperation in groups. The Academy of Management Journal, 38, 152–172.Google Scholar
  53. Warren, D. M., Slikkerveer, L. J., & Brokensha, D. (1995). The cultural dimension of development: Indigenous knowledge systems, IT studies on indigenous knowledge and development. London: Intermediate Technology Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Yumarma, A. (1996). Unity in diversity: A philosophical and ethical study of the Javanese. Concept of Keselarasan. Inculturation-Intercultural and Interreligious Studies No. XIX. Roma: Editrice Pontificia Universita.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LEAD, Leiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations