Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism

By Albert F. Celoza | Go to book overview

society capitulated to the Marcos government. Marcos's network of supporters wanted benefits, lavors, and protection; in turn, Marcos needed their support, so the interests of Marcos and his supporters converged in order to make an authoritarian regime possible.

The Philippine experience in authoritarian rule is not unique. Most Third World countries are being ruled by authoritarian governments; in fact, most countries of the world do not have democratic political systems. Democracy in these instances is understood as [a political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing government officials, and a social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by choosing among contenders for political office.]1 Some leaders of authoritarian governments attained their positions of leadership through election; however, many were installed after prevailing in a power struggle among the strongest competing groups.

How do authoritarians maintain themselves in power? A commonsense answer may be that their ruthlessness and repression silences or eliminates opposition. One cannot deny that a government's violence against its own citizens works toward maintaining a government's power. Humans hesitate to act when they know that their acts may result in torture or death. Marcos certainly employed terrorist tactics against his opponents, but can terror alone explain the staying power of regimes? Many regimes, despite repressive tactics, were unable to maintain themselves. When thinking of the control systems set up by authoritarians, one has to take into account that these systems entail costs. If, for some reason, a dictator cannot find the money to pay the costs of his repression, his regime will not be able to resist opposition.

Another possible explanation for authoritarian power holds that economic development in underdeveloped countries is possible only under the close direction of a centralized authority. Proponents claim that if the society is to progress economically, order must be established and certain practices (usually of a feudal nature) must be reformed to make progress possible. Such [progress] in a society is painful, and a centralized authority needs to curb liberty in order to ensure that order is established and maintained in spite of the pain. Marcos eloquently justified his establishment of order:

The primary problem in many modernizing societies is not liberty but the creation of a
legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot
have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited, and it is
authority that is in scarce supply in those modernizing countries where government is at
the mercy of alienated intellectuals, rambunctious colonels, and rioting students.2

An authoritarian regime, it is claimed, may enjoy the support of the people if the people believe they are making progress. There may be some truth to the claim, but the people's belief in the benefits of authoritarian rule is insufficient to maintain an authoritarian in power.

Closely tied to the idea that order precedes liberty is the idea that nationalism requires authoritarian rule. It has only been since World War II that most Third World countries have gained independence from colonial powers. In many cases, the

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Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - A Nation Divided 7
  • Chapter 3 - Martial Law and Regime Legitimation 39
  • Chapter 4 - A Complete Government Takeover 73
  • Chapter 5 - The Authoritarian Regime's Network of Support 95
  • Chapter 6 - Decline and Fall of the Dictatorship 125
  • Epilogue - The Philippines, 1986–1996 133
  • Selected Bibliography 135
  • Index 139
  • About the Author 145
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