Social cohesion in social change


Among the messages broadcast by presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the idea that the situation of Filipino society has worsened after the Edsa revolution which overthrew the government of his father. According to his account, corruption and economic underdevelopment persist because of the misguided and inconsistent policies of post-Edsa administrations. To remedy this, he claimed in a television interview that he will be a “unifying president” who “wants to synchronize our efforts” for social purposes.

In 2016, a similar campaign slogan was declared by presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte. Days before the last presidential elections, Duterte said the administration of Benigno Aquino III was divisive, only implementing policies that benefit the interests of his elite party. Claiming to adhere to due process and the presumption of innocence, it would nevertheless not authorize individuals or entities to “destroy the children or this country”. Through sheer political will and a “text message,” Duterte promised that within weeks, “everyone is doing well.”

For these individuals, the national interest takes precedence over individual interests. Defined as a state-national ideology, it claims a nation in crisis. As such, the state must protect the nation from all disturbances (real or false). This ideology originated with Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who imposed martial law to quell social unrest. In his case, the crisis was caused by extremist groups on both sides: the communists and the oligarchs. For Duterte, the crisis was the widespread use of dangerous drugs, and now, for Marcos Jr., the problem is Covid-19. In their campaigns, they promised to end social disruption quickly by removing all societal impediments.

In this ideology, a crucial element is to tear down the institutions and social processes that constricted previous administrations and, therefore, precipitated the so-called crisis. With the help of the military, this paves the way for a dictatorship or other extrajudicial measures. In the case of Marcos Sr., a new constitution was created to legalize his authoritarian power. Duterte, meanwhile, engaged in a war on drugs and weaponized laws to coerce the media and other democratic institutions into accepting his directives. Even before taking the presidency, Marcos Jr. shows a contempt for institutions in his attempt to revise history.

Nevertheless, despite the support of economic managers or technocrats, these governments have not been able to keep their promises. Under Marcos Sr., the country experienced a deep financial and economic crisis. Burdened by huge borrowing, successive administrations were hampered by lack of resources, which caused the economy to lag behind its Asian neighbors.

Under Duterte, even with his popularity and political power, the government’s response to the pandemic has been a failure. The current drop in infection cases comes at a huge cost. In September 2021, the country recorded the highest unemployment rate this year at 8.9%, as the scarring effects of the shutdowns rippled across the economy. According to Neda, the total costs of Covid-19 and quarantines amounted to 41.4 trillion pesos, thus causing dissatisfaction with the government, precipitating the country’s worst economic recession and reducing consumption, investment. and worker productivity over the next 10 years. years.

Given these disappointments, why would Marcos Jr. and his “teammate” Sara Duterte insist on the continuity of this nation-state ideology embraced by Marcos Sr. and Duterte? Besides personal reasons, their campaign seeks to attribute these failures to poor governance, not ideological weaknesses.

However, this belief mistakenly assumes that social disruptions, such as the effects of Covid-19, are external and can be eliminated by simple political will. Social problems, such as inadequate health systems, have their roots in existing social inequalities and disparities that limit social mobility. Healing does not begin with executive orders but with accepting wrongdoing. Solutions must be negotiated through the joint efforts and initiatives of society to promote, first and foremost, the individual.

The nation-state ideology is therefore anathema to social cohesion, which is a means and an end to social change.

By definition, a society is “cohesive” if it improves the well-being of all its members, combats exclusion and marginalization, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust and offers its members the possibility of mobility upward social. Economist Dani Rodrik has found compelling evidence that a divided society reacts less well to natural disasters than united societies. The lack of concern for the poor explains this government’s superficial response to the pandemic. William Easterly, another influential economist, presented evidence that lack of social cohesion, such as income inequality and splitting, correlates with the quality of institutions which, in turn, determines economic growth and change. social.

In contrast, Marcos Jr.’s “unifying” platform leads to tyranny. Children are indebted to their fathers.

Dr. Leonardo A. Lanzona, Jr. is Professor of Economics at Ateneo de Manila University.


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