Moral Politics in the Philippines: Inequality, Democracy and the Urban Poor.

AuthorMarie, Anna
PositionBook review

Moral Politics in the Philippines: Inequality, Democracy and the Urban Poor. By Wataru Kusaka. Singapore: NUS Press, 2017. Hardcover: 341pp.

Problematizing the tendency towards the moralization of politics to the exclusion of interest politics that questions inequalities in resource distribution in the Philippines is the central theme of this book. As such, it offers a fresh theoretical perspective and analytical approach to the study of democratization in the Philippines and presents a credible explanation for the instability of Philippine democracy in recent times. While most analyses would focus on the relationship between political elites and the lower classes, Wataru Kusaka focuses on interclass relationships and the antagonisms between the middle and lower social classes created by differences in language and media, among others, factors whose influence on class relations is often overlooked.

Kusaka's analysis rejects the all too facile and widely accepted interpretation of democracy in the Philippines as shaped by the persistence of elite democracy. Instead, he shifts the focus on the middle class and its ambiguous role in the deepening of democracy, particularly its exclusionary tendencies towards the masses. It can be located within the tradition of critical sociology as it interrogates and problematizes the role of the middle class as an agent of democratization. The dual spheres introduced by the author also bring attention to the importance of understanding the lifeworld and the discursive space of the masses and the middle class. The finding that the failure to effect real redistribution is at the root of the instability of democracy in the Philippines is nothing new. However, the focus on the antagonistic relations involving the middle class and the masses is fairly original.

Kusaka introduces a typology of "hegemonic practices that create antagonistic relations" (p. 46) and the typology is used to explain actual political developments in the post-1986 period following the so-called restoration of democracy under President Corazon Aquino, as well as to construct scenarios for the future. The organization of the chapters is logical, starting with the presentation of the problematic the book intends to engage and the analytical framework in the first chapter. This is followed by an analysis of the factors that created the "dual public spheres" (p. 50), presenting supporting evidences of the existence of and dynamics between...

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