Varieties of Clientelism in Comparative Democracies: Power, State Formation and Citizenship in the Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina

In: Bandung
Cleo Anne A. CalimbahinAssociate Professor, Department of Political Science, De La Salle University-Manila, Manila, Philippines,

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Clientelism in comparative democracies have evolved through time within informal and formal institutions. Using the book by Brkovic, that follows the tradition of challenging the unidimensional view of clientelism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this essay provides the Philippine case as contrast and comparison. The article examines how both countries’ experience can open new avenues for us to understand the durability of clientelism and its relationship with formal and informal institutions. Brokovic’s agency and personhood within clientelistic relationships accounts for the endurance of this practice in democratic societies that experienced transition. Clientelism persists in part due to the reliability of personal relations over the ability of public institutions to deliver. This review article will probe clientelism, as it manifests in the politics of the Philippines and its democratic institutions. Among the multiple types of clientelistic relationship in the Philippines, some emphasize the role of machine politics, corruption, and coercion. Brković’s book provides a new lens of analysis by looking at clientelism through personhood and agency as power. The contribution of the book on the discourse of clientelism can deepen the understanding of Philippine politics because it encourages an analysis that looks at the exercise of democracy through personhood, agency, and informal institutions. It invites us to view clientelism not just through corruption and violence. By combining the analysis that utilizes formal and informal institutions, personhood and structuralist, this essay explains why some countries that have transitioned into democracies remain ambiguous states and explain the persistence of clientelism.

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