Ateneo PolSci Bloggers

An Argument for Philippine Social Democracy: Freedom (First of a planned three parts)

In Philippine Issues, Politics on March 17, 2010 at 5:10 pm

by Bian Villanueva

I thought this up in the spare time I have between reviewing for long tests and finals. Allow me to provide a short and humble argument for a Social Democratic Philippine State in three parts based on the three core principles of Social Democracy – Freedom, Equality, and Solidarity.

Let us begin with the question: are we truly free?

There is a prevalent misconception with regards to the notion of freedom, in the sense that it has become a freedom of individualist self-exclusion instead of the more tenable collectivist self-inclusion. Freedom is a word that connotes justice, but there is no justice in Philippine society. Our country is not free, for its people are bound by the fetters of individualism and disaffection. The Filipino, today, is not free, because he is limited by the invisible hand of the market. Freedom for the Filipino is economic freedom and not political freedom – and therefore his wants are economic wants, his needs are economic needs, his politics is social and thereby anti-political. Freedom has with it a dualistic nature – we are granted freedom in the effort to encourage responsibility, and when we do not oblige this responsibility we cast ourselves away from the political space. Freedom is not merely the freedom from scarcity, it is beyond the economy of needs and wants, freedom appends itself into the sacred halls of public participation, of the collective, of the people gathered and not the bureaucracy that commands.

Freedom is not the freedom to buy a Lexus, the freedom to put up a business, the freedom to build an abode – those are rights and rights do not necessarily denote freedom. Because even in a society where all rights are provided for, such as ours, the question of our freedom remains a tenable if not entirely important question. It is the mentality of market-driven rationality that denies us of the ability to engage in the politics of liberty, justice and freedom. There is a question of economics, yes, but before that, and above that, there is the question of politics – and that is the fundamental question, it is the question that circumscribes the initial question of this exposition.

Democratic structures must be strengthened, rendered tenable, and open – because in the current neo-liberal framework, society has been cast away from the halls of the state, set in constant opposition to the government that presides. That is not democracy, well at the very least that is not a democracy that works. The state, now freed from the chains of the political responsibility of the people has set upon hiding beneath the veil of its devolution of power, its engendering of a politics of patronage and rent-seeking under the veneer of privatization – the state has become more powerful under the assumption that we have made it less powerful, because now it works under the dictates of results derived from self-efficacy, founded on the laws of the market. Not one process is political, not one process is under the jurisdiction of the people, it is the state that dictates, the state that manages, the state that provides – but without our consent, without our knowledge, without our participation. Focus on individualism has given the state primacy to reduce our responsibilities and a reduction in responsibility is congruent with a reduction of freedom.

Social democracy is the key to attaining political freedom – in it, there is the promise of mutual responsibility based on the currency of action and not of market rationality. The social democratic argument is based on the rejection of this politics of un-freedom, individual responsibility is key in political participation, and instead of rejecting this responsibility as neo-liberalism does, it underscores it – social democracy is an affirmation of the dualism of freedom, and in this affirmation necessitates the promotion and engendering of true political freedom. Freedom in social democracy is the freedom to participate in governance, without the question of economics, because the market does not dictate the politics of the state – in the contrary, the market is utilized as a tool, rather than the market using individual actors including the state. Social democracy allows us to own the political process once again, it allows us to be part of it once again – the beginning is in our awakening to the light of the dawn of a promise of freedom founded on the fundamental principles of a democracy that works. When we release ourselves from the neoliberal bias, we become open to political participation through other means besides the neo-liberal notion of “choice”.

Freedom of participation necessarily entails a politics of equality not of egalitarianism – of solidarity and not of homogenized unity. The argument for social democracy through the lens of freedom is simple then: infinite responsibility to the other manifested in infinite responsibility in the process of nation-building actively pursued not only through programs that provide simplistic solutions to questions of needs but in the larger arena of political discourse.

  1. The beauty of political theory is that it oftentimes misjudges the people that are meant to carry out its principles. The communist assumes that people don’t really need a lot of stuff and as along as they have what they need they’ll be dine and dandy. Turns out people like owning shit, and a one party system is prone to stagnation.

  2. Gah, that other half of my post got deleted. I will be reductive: There are already opportunities for people to get involved now, but they don’t. I don’t think it has anything to do with the system. What evidence can you provide that people are willing to take in “infinite responsibility”? In my experience dealing with people (admittedly not much) they’d much rather have someone tell them what to do.

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