Maluku archipelago

From Anarchy In Action

Stateless communities in the Maluku archipelago (in what's now Indonesia) historically practiced relatively egalitarian social relations. Referring to the archipelago's Aru Islands, historian Hans Hägerdal writes that "Aru society was stateless and relatively egalitarian and eluded strong colonial control up to the late colonial period." Hägerdal also describes Aru inhabitants as being fairly cosmopolitan: "The attitude of the inhabitants of Barakai was remarkably inclusive. They had difficulties following the abstract Dutch notions of foreignness, exclusion and illegality."[1]

Peter Gelderloos writes:

"Social organization throughout the Maluku archipelago was localized and largely horizontal, though there was also a council of wealthy male elders—orang kaya—each one representing a district. The majority of local affairs were self-organized, with the orang kaya primarily dealing with, and deriving their power from, the spice trade, which was organized by Malay, Arab, and Chinese traders."[2]

At least in some cases, the orangkaya were not did not have significant power over others. Hägerdal notes that among the Aru:

"there were no rajas or aristocracies on the islands, and the differences between commoners and settlement chiefs were gradual rather than absolute. The account of the 1623 visit stated that 'there are no kings at all, and they are not governed by anyone, apart from that every negeri or village has certain orangkayas which are acknowledged as chiefs, who cannot however do or decide any bicara [deliberation] without the knowledge or prior notice of all the commoners.'"

  1. Hans Hägerdal, “On the Margins of Colonialism: Contact Zones in the Aru Islands,” The European Legacy 25, no. 5 (2020): pp. 554-571,
  2. Peter Gelderloos, Worshiping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation (Oakland: AK Press, 2016), 144.