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(83) LSE Professor James Putzel reflects on state of Philippine society

James Putzel, PhD, full professor at the International Development Department of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Director of the LSE Crisis States Centre, visited AIM on 17 June to present his analysis on the looming challenges to peace and development that the incoming administration will face. He argued the case for transformative politics using Meeting the Challenges of Crisis States, a report he co-authored with Jonathan Di-John.

The talk Fissures of Fragility in the Philippines covered the Duterte phenomenon, the differences between the requirements for peace and the requirements for development, political organization and settlements as decisive roles, the fragility and development constraints currently experienced by the Philippines, and the opportunities the Duterte administration have in shifting the political settlement.

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The Duterte Phenomenon and Promise

Putzel began by providing a background on President Rodrigo Duterte’s successful presidential campaign and decisive win. He described the win as the “occupation of the center by the periphery.” The campaign banked on the peoples’ high hopes, Putzel noted. Duterte had promised the people freedom from crime and drugs.

However, Putzel continued, the requirements for peace are different from the requirements to achieve development.

A state’s fragility or resilience, according to Putzel, depends on the following factors: the monopoly of coercive force without repression, the reach of state offices over significant territory, fiscal monopoly and integration, and institutional hegemony.

On the other hand, a state’s stagnation or development depends on the following: the capacity to formulate strategies towards growth and transformation amidst constraints, the investment in human and physical capital necessary for sustained growth and social transformation, and the capacity to inspire capital and labor to support strategies on a long-term basis.

Both fragility/resilience and stagnation/development are significantly affected by political organization and “political settlement,” or an agreement between elites, and the results can be contradictory.

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“What will Duterte do?”

The Duterte administration inherits a Philippines with various fissures of state fragility caused by the factors mentioned above. Within this context, Duterte faces a number of prospects for peace and challenges for development.

On peace, Putzel shared the potential for comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro and BBL secured through political organization. Political organization may also contribute to peace-talks with the CPP-NPA and more radical forces in the country, ending long-time insurgency.

On development, Putzel described some of the challenges the new president will face. Aside from those already mentioned, he also added challenges such as the neoliberal status quo in macro-economic policy, the lack of a strategy for climbing value chains in agriculture and industry, the immediate need to conclude the long-standing issue of agrarian reform, and the importance of a long-term outlook on development finance, research and development, and strategic infrastructure, among others.

Putzel ended his talk by attempting to answer the question “Can Duterte shift the political settlement?” To this, he responded that good governance alone can’t achieve peace or development, and that strongmen without programmatic political parties have not necessarily fared well. He also added that populists tend to fall as fast and as sharply as they rose and that historically, most though not all political parties have been built in government.

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The talk was followed by a Q&A moderated by Mr. Francisco Lara, Jr., Country Manager of International Alert-Philippines. Prof. Manuel De Vera, Executive Director of the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership closed the program with a short message.

The talk was organized by International Alert Philippines, in partnership with the AIM Stephen Zuellig Graduate School of Development Management and the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership.


About the Speaker

James Putzel, PhD is Professor of Development Studies at LSE and since October 2000, Director of the Crisis States Research Centre. He heads the Centre's research program on Crisis States, which is funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development.

Professor Putzel is perhaps best known here for his book, A Captive Land: the Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines (1992). In 1999, he won the Dudley Seers annual prize for his article, 'The Business of Aid: Transparency and Accountability in European Union Development Assistance" (Journal of Development Studies, vol.34). His article, "Accounting for the Dark Side of Social Capital" (Journal of International Development, vol. 9) has had a significant impact on recent development debates, as has his co-authored paper with Mick Moore, 'Thinking Strategically About Politics and Poverty' (IDS, 2000). His recent research and publications range from work on the politics of financial crisis, to work on nationalism, comparative politics of development in Southeast and East Asia, democratic transition, developmental states, and the role of foreign aid and NGOs in development, with a particular focus on problems of institutional change. His current research focuses on politics and governance in crisis states including work on Understanding 'Failed States', Political Islam in Southeast Asia and the Politics of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Professor Putzel received his BA in Honours East Asian Studies and MA in Political Science from McGill University. He received his DPhil in Politics from the University of Oxford. In the late 1980s, he was a Visiting Senior Lecturer in Political Science and a Visiting Research Associate at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines.

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The AIM Zuellig Graduate School of Development Management hosts numerous talks and public lectures on different aspects of development management. These seminars and lectures are free and open to the public, unless stated otherwise. For information on future seminars, visit the News and Events section of this website or like us on Facebook (




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