Democracy as Disorder: Institutionalized Sources of Democratic Disenchantment among the Middle Class in Metro Manila

Marco Garrido, University of Chicago

The paper draws a link between democratic recession and the growth of the middle class in the developing world. Specifically, it draws upon several years of ethnographic research to depict the middle-class experience of democracy in Metro Manila. It highlights an experience of disorder—a felt gap between the preferred rules and prevailing norms governing various social and political relationships. Perceptions of disorder ground informants’ disenchantment with democracy, which they see as having amplified disorder. They also ground calls to discipline democracy, with discipline understood as bringing “rules” and “norms” into alignment. Informants do not necessarily want a return to authoritarian rule, but envision, rather, a democratic yet rule-bound order enforced by a strong leader. These views, I suggest, informed middle-class support for Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. They give us insight, moreover, into the grievances behind democratic recession in the Philippines and elsewhere. Analytically, the paper proposes reframing the “problem” of democracy. The problem is not that institutions are weak but that valued institutions are actively contradicted by disvalued ones. This framing extends the concept of institutional contradiction. It shows the experience of contradiction to be one of moral ferment, with clear implications for political action.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 166. Democratic Disenchantment