The Unification of Law and the Postcolonial State: The Limits of State Monism in India and Indonesia

Mirjam Künkler, Yuksel Sezgin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


The article analyzes the evolution of state law pluralism in the field of personal status law in India and Indonesia in the postcolonial era. Having inherited pluri-legal personal law systems from their colonial patrons, postindependence leaders in both countries vowed to eliminate and replace pluri-legal arrangements by uniform civil law systems that would not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, custom, or religion. Despite their attempts at legal unification from the 1940s to 1960s, however, both nations today exhibit high degrees of state law pluralism in personal law. We show that plans for legal unification were abandoned in both countries in the 1970s, and that the turn away from legal unification was mostly driven by concerns of political stability and electoral politics, not, as is often argued in the literature, due to state incapacity or ideological reorientations on part of the ruling elite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)987-1012
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2015



  • India
  • Indonesia
  • legal pluralism
  • legal unification
  • personal law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education

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