Democratic or Demagogic? "People Power" Reconsidered -- in the Philippines and Elsewhere



Amado M. Mendoza, Jr, University of the Philippines

Date and Time

November 7, 2007 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Daniel and Nancy Okimoto Conference Room

Unarmed mass uprisings, celebrated as "people power" revolutions, have ended authoritarian regimes in various countries. But have these movements ushered in polities that fulfilled democratic expectations? The record is disappointing, and especially so in the Philippines after the ouster of President Ferdinand Marcos. Why? Much of the answer lies in the ability of elites to ride, hijack, and redirect the trajectories of "people power" movements. Such elites take advantage of the tension between the regular politics of stable institutions and the irregular politics of extraordinary moments. The large mobilizations associated with "people power" cannot be sustained for long periods. The masses will soon delegate power to, and rely on, their leaders, who will represent them as the polity settles down to the business of normal--institutional--politics. The very minute the new regime is inaugurated, it ceases to be revolutionary and starts to be conservative. It has a country to run, and state power to defend and consolidate, for its enemies are not likely to have given up. The institutional technology of popular rule has yet to be developed beyond grand first principles and banal motherhood statements. The supposedly revolutionary leaders of the new regime lapse into using the already well known methods of minority or elite rule. But recourse to such stratagems may in time trigger the formation of new "people power" movements against these self-entrenched incumbents--prolonging the cycle and preventing the conversion of contingent power into legitimate authority.

Amado Mendoza's current research is on the political economy of organized crime and anti-state violence in the Philippines. His many writings on that country include a book-in-progress on tax reform and two edited volumes, Debts of Dishonor (1992) and From Crisis to Crisis: A History of BOP [Balance of Payments] Crises in the Philippines (1987). He has been a visiting scholar at Tufts University, the Jean Monnet Institute, the University of Turku (Finland), and the Amsterdam Insti¬tute for International Relations. In addition to pursuing his academic career, he has worked as a business journalist, a merchant banker, a stockbroker, and on development issues for an NGO.

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