Friday, March 25, 2005

The Anti-Development State: The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines

I've finally finished a book I bought off the shelves of the UP Press last December. I am writing a comparative paper on the democratization of South Korea and the Philippines, and The Anti-Development State, written by my favorite scholar/advocate Walden Bello and his two proteges, has been a major eye-opener.

This seminal work is an excellent diagnostic tool for what ails our country today. In his usual lucid and very engaging writing style, he makes the argument that the Philippines is unable to develop due to the weak State that has historically been held hostage by factions the elite oligarchy. And that revolutions of the EDSA kind, are more "revolutions of our heads" than they are real social change.

I highly recommend that this book be read by any Filipino who wonders why the shit in the Philippines always hits the fan.

Prof. Lanuza of the UP Department of Sociology reviews:

The most recent book of Walden Bello, The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines, which he co-authored with three younger research assistants, has once again proven how prolific Walden is as an author.

In The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines Walden finally provides his readers a systematic account of the major structural problems confronting the Philippines in n the light of globalization and the crisis of post-Edsa State.

The book is teeming with a lot of data on Philippine economy and political situation: from import and export to agriculture, from the impact of globalization on land reform to the crisis of NAPOCOR, from the ascendancy of Edsa II state to the looming bankruptcy of Maynilad Water Services, Inc. For those who want to have a glimpse or synopsis of Philippine political and economic situation Walden’s book will definitely be a good starting point.

The second virtue of the book is the acute analysis and framework that informs the analyses and arguments of the book. Without this second virtue, the book will be a mere exercise in investigative journalism, an incoherent account of Philippine economic crisis.

Personally, I find Chapter 7, which demystifies the popular conception that our people’s poverty is due to corruption, as the most interesting and the most theoretically engaging part. This chapter goes beyond the common moralistic discourse against corruption and the so-called value-orientation study (derived from modernization theory) that purports to explain the culture of corruption as the explanandum of our people’s poverty. The conclusion: we are corrupt because we are poor, and not because we are corrupt, that we are poor.

The book is not another cynical portrayal of Philippine economic crisis. To the contrary, the book is a rich source of social hope—that longing that we can get out of this national and global mess. After all, this crisis is structurally generated and is therefore not an iron cage to which we are forever condemned. Ironically the book analyzes the “permanent crisis” to show that this crisis is not as “permanent” as it might appear.

Let me end with a quote from my favorite chapter, Chapter 7:

"Ideas survive and flourish not necessarily because they are empirically or analytically sound but because they are useful for advancing and protecting the interest of certain people—forces who would then have the material incentive to ensure that such ideas are perpetuated and propagated (page 286)."

Let me assure the readers that I concur with most of the analyses of the authors not so much because they reflect the interests of the authors but because they represent the interest of those who want to end the permanent crisis of Philippine political economy. Also, I am convinced that the arguments that the authors are defending in the book are not just convincing, but more importantly, they support the interests of those who, by the fact they bear the brunt of this crisis, want to radically overhaul our present political and economic structures. I therefore invite readers to seriously read the arguments and analyses of the book and to judge for themselves what and whose interests do they espouse. After reading the book readers may as well ask themselves whose side they are on! That is the challenge of the book.

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