top of page

Local Politics

My first major research interest and major research project developed into my PhD dissertation (1995) and my first book, Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines (Stanford University Press, 1999). The puzzle which animated my research was the pattern of entrenched local power observable in the Philippines in the early aftermath of the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy in 1986: local 'bosses' or 'warlords' or 'political dynasties' who dominated their localities for many years without interruption or serious challenge. Over the late 1980s and early-mid 1990s I conducted extensive research in two Philippine provinces -- Cavite and Cebu -- and analyzed the diverging patterns of what I termed 'bossism' across the variegated landscapes of these two provinces, from localized criminal gangs to long-reigning mayors, congressmen, and provincial governors. 

This research generated a set of densely descriptive accounts of various aspects of local politics in the two provinces as well as a broader framework for the comparative analysis of local power, across the Philippines and beyond. Alongside my 1999 book on 'bossism' in the Philippines, I have also tried to extend my arguments to account for patterns of local politics observed elsewhere across Southeast Asia, and to engage with the growing body of mainstream Political Science literature on 'subnational authoritarianism', which is largely grounded in research on Latin America and, to a much lesser extent, early post-Soviet Russia. 


Since I took up my current post at the LSE, I have taught a postgraduate-level course on 'Local Power in an Era of Globalization, Democratization, and Decentralization' (GV4D3) which covers a wide range of aspects and examples of entrenched forms of concentrated local power across the world. The course is very interdisciplinary in its approach and draws as much on the work of anthropologists, sociologists, and scholars of urban studies as on Political Science. Thanks to the experience of teaching this course, I keep up with the rich, diverse, and growing body of scholarly literature on local politics in various parts of the world, and I hope to write a book on this topic someday.

Here are some examples of my published work on this research interest:


“Patrons, Bosses, Dynasties, and Reformers in Local Politics,” in Mark R. Thompson and Eric Vincent C. Batalla (eds.), Routledge Handbook of the Contemporary Philippines (London: Routledge, 2018), pp. 26-37. 


“Economic Foundations of Subnational Authoritarianism: Insights and Evidence from Qualitative and Quantitative Research,” Democratization, Volume 21, Number 1 (January 2014), pp. 161-184.  


“Bossism and Democracy in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia: Towards an Alternative Framework for the Study of ‘Local Strongmen’,” in John Harris, Kristian Stokke, and Olle Tornquist (eds.), Politicising Democracy: Local Politics and Democratisation in Developing Countries (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 51-74. 


“Filipino Gangsters in Film, Legend, and History: Two Biographical Case Studies from Cebu,” in Alfred W. McCoy (ed.), Lives at the Margin: Biographies of Filipinos Obscure, Ordinary, and Heroic (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 2000), pp. 149-191. 


Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999. 


"The Usual Suspects: Nardong Putik, Don Pepe Oyson, and Robin Hood,” in Vicente L. Rafael (ed.), Figures of Criminality in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Colonial Vietnam (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1999), pp. 70-94. 


“Murder Inc., Cavite: Capitalist Development and Political Gangsterism in a Philippine Province,” in Carl Trocki (ed.), Gangsters, Democracy, and the State inSoutheast Asia (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1998), pp. 55-80. 


“The Underside of Progress: Land, Labor, and Violence in Two Philippine Growth Zones,” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Volume 30, Number 1 (Jan.-March 1998), pp. 3-12. 


“Philippine Politics in Town, District, and Province: Bossism in Cavite and Cebu,” Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 56, Number 4 (November 1997), pp. 947-966. 


“Siam and Its Twin?: Democratisation and Bossism in Contemporary Thailand and the Philippines,” Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, Volume 27, Number 2 (April 1996), pp. 36-52. 


“On the Waterfront: Labour Racketeering in the Port of Cebu,” South East Asia Research, Volume 3, Number 1 (March 1995), pp. 3-17. 


“Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man: Justiniano Montano and Failed Dynasty Building in Cavite 1935-1972,” in Alfred W. McCoy (ed.), An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1993), pp. 109-161. 

CCC Bossism Book Cover.jpg
bottom of page