Philippines. Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines, by. John T. Sidel. California: Stanford University Press, xii + US$, cloth. Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines, by John T. Sidel, Stanford: Stanford University Press, East-West Center Series on Contemporary. Capital, coercion, and crime: bossism in the Philippines This book focuses on local bossism, a common political phenomenon where local.

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Log In Sign Up. Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines, by John T. By Oona Thommes Paredes The Philippines, as a Third-World, post-colonial nation, has its share of fairly serious political, economic, and social problems. Indeed, the idea that voters support bosses mainly because of their charisma and noblesse oblige is ridiculous when we face the stark reality of boss violence. This leads him, unfortunately, to dismiss altogether the explanatory relevance of culture — an issue I address further below.

Sidel also presents a critique of the theory that widespread bossism is evidence of a weak state. Philippones other words, philippinez system is not broken — rather, it is a runaway success. Such a radical notion will prove jarring to many, but it certainly explains why some politicians in the Philippines cannot seem to help enriching themselves while in office.

The predatory nature of the Philippine state, according to Sidel, has its roots in American colonial efforts crjme nation-building in the early twentieth century. This essentially means that elected officials acquired broad bossissm powers over all local resources law enforcement, taxes, local appointments, etc.

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The body of the text is devoted to the development of diverse and locally specific forms of bossism in the provinces of Cavite and Cebu. With clear photographs of bullet-ridden, blood-spattered walls p. The story capktal Sidel tells is neither contrived nor sensationalized.

No doubt we are shown only the tip of philippine iceberg, as a detailed pathology of any one of these provincial and small-town bosses would fill volumes. The comparative examples presented in the final chapter do not conclusively reinforce his assertions, nor do they show that an alternative institutional apparatus or sequence of political and economic developments would have prevented the emergence of bosses.

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Moreover, bossism is found throughout the capitxl and in modern history. In fact, when bossism in other countries is considered, the key culprit seems to be, not a particular structural flaw in the development of national institutions, but electoral democracy itself.

Local bossism flourished in Burma during the early postindependence period of parliamentary rule, but faded at least in Burma proper with the thee of centralized military rule in Similarly, in early crie Indonesia, [ However, with the demise of parliamentary rule and the onset of martial law inand the inception of military rule ina centralized bureaucratic state emerged to subordinate local aristocracies, magnates, and gangsters alike [ A reader might infer from such statements that centralized authoritarian rule, by the military or by traditional elites, is the antidote to bossism, phiilppines that it is preferable to an electoral democracy in which citizens might be coerced or duped into electing the wrong people.

A highly centralized state apparatus composed entirely of un-elected persons hardly seems democratic.

But, seen from a comparative perspective, it is clear that electoral democracy and bossism go hand-in-hand. This leads to questions regarding the inevitability of bossism — because it is difficult to imagine a state with an electoral democracy that does not, in some way, place state resources in the hands of competitively elected officials. Although rcime electoral democracy allows bossism to fester, it can also be its downfall.

From the Philippine examples, we see that even seemingly untouchable bosses will fall though sometimes only temporarily when they philipines an election. Of course, whether or not any election is legitimate or truly democratic is debatable.

However, there are criem who actually vote freely for bosses in the Philippines, no matter how transparently corrupt they are. This brings us criime to the problem of ignoring the cultural context within which political events take place. Vulgar displays of power e. Knowing this, it becomes entirely conceivable that some bosses remain in power simply because they are legitimately re-elected.

Without acknowledging the local cultural context in which a state apparatus operates, the explanatory power of any political theory will be severely limited.


Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines | John T. Sidel

In the case of the Philippines, it is clear that certain cultural factors configure social and political relations between bosses and their supporters, as well as within a given network of bosses. Essentialism need not be an issue if we can acknowledge that cultural models do shape material relations, coercoon only within specific historical conditions of political and economic development.

However, Filipino voters, with their indigenous cultural constructs, remain the most important locus for change, as it is they who must evaluate and deconstruct this state philippjnes in order to effectively contradict, destabilize, and subvert the institution of bossism.

Sidel is to be commended for this highly objective analysis of Philippine bossism, and an honest portrayal of the predation and violence that pervade the electoral system. Capital, Coercion, and Crime is a sober and detailed assessment of what may be the modern Philippine state’s most serious obstacle.

And though he does not mention it explicitly, Sidel is obviously troubled by this phenomenon, as are most Filipinos at home and abroad. It is painfully obvious that bossism is highly damaging to Philippine society as a whole, at the very least because it corrupts electoral politics and hobbles the development of a truly representative democracy.

This is because bossism both relies upon and reinforces the deplorable status quo in terms of widespread poverty, inequality, landlessness, lawlessness, and other socio-economic ills.

This dependency, in turn, ensures that the Philippines will never rise above this post-colonial mire for as long as bossism remains entrenched.

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