The New York Review of books

Volume 28, Number 6 April 16, 1981


The World as a Stage

By Quentin Skinner
Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth-Century Bali
by Clifford Geertz
Princeton University Press, 295 pp., $5.95 (paper)

The term "negara" in Professor Geertz's title refers to the pattern of supreme political authority that prevailed over much of Southeast Asia in the precolonial period. The main purpose of Geertz's study is to delineate the general structure of the negara by focusing on one particularly well-documented case, that of Bali in the era preceding the Dutch invasion of 1906. The outcome is a fascinating and remarkable book, in which the detailed ethnography is presented with exemplary skill, while the wider implications of the investigation for an understanding of political life are explored at the same time with rare sensitivity and intelligence.


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