Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines (c)


John T. Sidel

Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific


Stanford: Stanford University Press

Available From: Stanford University Press
Publication Date: 1999
ISBN: 0-8047-3745-2
Binding: cloth
Pages: xii, 225


Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines is the fourth volume in the East-West Center-sponsored series, Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific.

This book focuses on local bossism, a common political phenomenon where local power brokers achieve monopolistic control over an area's coercive and economic resources. For many years, the entrenchment of numerous provincial warlords and political clans has made the Philippines a striking case of local bossism. Yet writings on Filipino political culture and patron-client relations have ignored the role of coercion in shaping electoral competition and social relations. Portrayals of a "weak state" captured by a landed oligarchy have similarly neglected the enduring institutional legacies of American colonial rule and the importance of state resources for the accumulation of wealth and power in the Philippines.

The author argues that the roots of bossism in the Philippines lie in the inauguration of formal democratic institutions at a relatively early stage of capitalist development. Poverty and insecurity leave many voters vulnerable to clientelist, coercive, and financial pressure, and the state's central role in capital accumulation provides the basis for local bosses' economic empires and political machines. These contradictions have encouraged bossism in the Philippines, as well as in other countries.

The book elaborates these arguments through case studies of bosses in two Philippine provinces, Cavite and Cebu. It provides a comparative historical analysis of bossism, drawing conclusions of great interest not only to scholars of Southeast Asia but to students of comparative politics as well.


Details and ordering information at
Stanford University Press

  1. Bossism and State Formation in the Philippines
  2. Small-Town Bosses: The Mafia-Style Mayors of Cavite
  3. The Provincial Warlords of Cavite, 1896-1995
  4. The Small-Town Dynasties of Cebu
  5. The District-Level Dynasties of Cebu
  6. A Provincial Dynasty: The Osmeñas of Cebu City
  7. Bossism in Comparative Perspective


"This book is certainly a contribution to the literature on Philippine politics, comparative politics, and state-society relations. It builds on, while going significantly beyond, what other scholars have done and lays out a reasoned argument that future scholarship will have to engage about how public offices are won and lost and for whose benefit."

--The Journal of Asian Studies


"...Sidel has written a superb and pioneering analysis that defines the future course for studies of local elites--not only in the Philippines but elsewhere as well."

--Paul D. Hutchcroft, University of Wisconsin, Madison


"A superb piece of scholarship....Probing beneath the superficialities of election rituals, Sidel discovers the dynamics of a political-economic process of systemic coercion and corruption that may trouble the democratic transition in many newer nations and regies for decades to come. These conclusions should demand wide attention from the many scholars and policy specialists concerned with the recent wave of democratization across the globe."

--Alfred W. McCoy, University of Wisconsin-Madison