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Clarke, Gerard (1995) Participation and Protest: Non-Governmental Organisations and Philippine Politics. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Since the late 1980s, a significant number of studies of the work of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the developing world have been published, giving rise to a distinctive literature within the social sciences. This literature however focuses on the socioeconomic aspects of NGO action and is of limited use to political scientists in interpreting the "associational revolution" triggered by the proliferation of NGOs in Asia, Africa and Latin America in recent decades. Michael Bratton has argued that it is in the political sphere rather than the economic that the contributions of NGOs to development should be mainly seen, yet political scientists have failed to contribute proportionately to the evolving NGO literature. Following Bratton, this dissertation examines the role of NGOs in Philippine politics, especially since the collapse of the Marcos dictatorship in February 1986. The dissertation examines the history of Philippine NGO participation in politics, relations between NGOs and the Philippine state since 1986, the institutional forces promoting the proliferation of NGOs, and the main mechanisms through which NGOs engage in politics. Case-studies of two of the Philippines' leading NGOs elaborate on the general arguments from early chapters and reveal that NGO strategy is characterised by a complex blend of participation and protest shaped by the policies of a succession of regimes throughout the late twentieth century. Between 1984 and 1993, the number of NGOs in the Philippines grew by 148%. This growth raises important questions about the nature of NGO action and its impact on Philippine politics, the state, and civil society. Does the NGO community strengthen civil society? Can it transform relations between the state and civil society? Can it help to empower the millions traditionally marginalised from political participation in the Philippines? On the first question, the dissertation argues that NGOs simultaneously weaken and strengthen civil society and that the NGO community is best seen as a new arena within which battles from society at large are internalized. On the second, it argues that collaboration between NGOs and the state has strengthened the state in small yet significant ways, helping it to attack entrenched socio-economic elite interests and helping the state to attract broad-based popular support for far-reaching political and economic reforms. On the third question, the dissertation argues that expanding political participation has been one of the main achievements of the Philippine NGO community and that NGOs, by linking with grass-roots "people's organisations", have filled an important institutional vacuum resulting from the inability of political parties, trade unions and peasant associations to promote sustained popular political participation. The main significance of growth in the Philippine NGO community is political. As the dissertation argues throughout, the proliferation, regional distribution and organisational character of NGOs, as well as the tasks they perform and the posture they adopt vis-a-vis state agencies and the private sector, have all been determined by essentially political factors. Philippine NGOs and the people's organisations with which they work closely are significant mainly for their broad organisational reach and their ability to organise and mobilise around ideologically-coherent interests, hence making them an important actor in Philippine politics.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:22

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