Thursday, February 08, 2007

Kasarinlan Review: Democratization, Development, and the Patrimonial State in the Age of Globalization

Eric Budd. Democratization, development, and the patrimonial state in the age of globalization. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2004. 163 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 20, 2 (2005): 189-196.

The tendency of most scholars is to assume that there is a relationship between democracy and economic development, i.e., that one is determinant of the other, regardless of whether the relationship is positive or not. In Democratization, Development, and the Patrimonial State in the Age of Globalization, Eric Budd takes a different approach by introducing patrimonialism as determinant of both democracy and economic development. His analysis reveals that high levels of patrimonialism severely impede the attainment of democracy and economic development in Third World states.

By privileging patrimonialism, Budd hopes to make a novel contribution to the political development literature. In this work, he likewise proposes a resolution to the debate between advocates of neoliberalism and the developmental state. Indeed, he should be commended for attempting to reconcile the concerns of past and present scholars of political development. Still, entrenched as he is in the tradition of mainstream scholars of political development, Budd fails to question the assumptions of the mainstream political development tradition while clearly embracing its prescriptions. Budd shares the shortcomings of mainstream political development writers: an uncritical attitude towards capitalism, a disdain for mass participation, acceptance of limited/elitist democracy, a depiction of society which is devoid of cleavages and class divisions, and a naive agency-centered understanding of political change (Cammack 1997).

Budd adopts a Weberian understanding of patrimonialism. A patrimonial state is one in which “practically everything depends explicitly upon personal considerations” (1). Patrimonial states are characterized by the exchange of resources from political officials to their cronies, particularistic in lieu of universalistic policies, the subordination of the rule of law to the “rule of man,” and the tendency of political officials to blur the boundaries between public and the private realms (2).

To be sure, the proper label for most patrimonial Third World states is “neopatrimonial” to indicate the fact that the patrimonial features coincide with the existence of bureaucracies. Unlike Weber, however, Budd rejects the dichotomy between the patrimonial and the rational-legal state. All states exhibit some features of patrimonialism, albeit at varying degrees. By insisting that patrimonialism must be viewed as a spectrum, he asserts that the level of patrimonialism of states can be measured, compared, and correlated to degrees of democratization and development.

Budd tests the hypotheses that patrimonialism poses a barrier to economic growth, and patrimonialism poses a barrier to democracy. To test these hypotheses, he pursues a statistical analysis of how patrimonialism separately correlates to economic growth and democracy. He then supports his findings with comparative case studies of a selected number of Third World countries.

Budd devised a procedure for measuring the level of patrimonialism of Third World states. Utilizing various sources, mostly written from 1990 onwards, he developed a ranking system which sought to measure the following features of patrimonialism: (a) the extent to which state policies were oriented towards particularistic considerations; (b) the degree to which the political system is dominated by a small elite or by political dynasties, and the degree to which electoral contests are decided by the personal characteristics of candidates as opposed to issues and ideologies; (c) the extent to which political decisions are based upon personal connections and considerations; and, (d) the degree to which public and private spheres overlap.

Budd selected 30 countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Each of the 30 countries was given a score based on the aforementioned patrimonial characteristics. Among the countries that scored highly in terms of patrimonialism were Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, and a number of African countries. South Korea and Taiwan were moderately patrimonial while Chile was the least patrimonial country in the list followed by Singapore.

He then conducted a statistical analysis of how the level of patrimonialism of the 30 selected states correlated to their levels of democracy and economic development. He relied on Freedom House’s Freedom in the World: 1994-1995 to provide him with the rankings for degrees of democratization of the 30 selected states. The statistical results for democratization and patrimonialism show that Chile exhibits low patrimonialism while possessing a relatively more democratic polity. The African countries of Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Zaire and Zimbabwe exhibit very high patrimonialism while possessing more authoritarian systems. Budd argues that the results of the statistical analysis generally support the hypothesis that an inverse relationship exists between a nation’s level of patrimonialism and degree of democratization.

The patrimonial scores for the Philippines and Brazil however seem atypical for relatively democratic states. Despite having highly patrimonial states, the Philippines and Brazil were moderately democratic. Singapore is another interesting example. Despite its low patrimonial score, it possesses a very authoritarian political system. Budd however insists that “despite these caveats, as a general rule it does seem to hold true that there is an inverse relationship between a nation’s level of patrimonialism and its degree of democratization” (11).

As for the economic development rankings of the 30 states, Budd opted to utilize data from the World Bank, e.g. the World Development Report 1992: Development and the Environment and World Tables 1995. The World Bank data was used to produce rankings based on growth rates. The rankings show that the Philippines scored poorly in terms of economic growth. Chile, the least patrimonial country in the sample received high scores. Still, it was Singapore which managed to register consistent high scores in terms of economic growth. Budd concludes that the findings again support the hypothesis that patrimonialism impedes economic development.

While the results of the statistical analysis indeed show a correlation between levels of patrimonialism and levels of democratization, one wonders whether the correlation only reflects the possibility that the chosen measures of patrimonialism and democratization share a common core indicator. As already mentioned, patrimonialism is characterized by personalism, particularism, the overlapping of the public and private realms, and the subordination of the rule of law to personal considerations. On the other hand, democracy, as defined by Freedom House, is measured in terms of political rights and civil liberties. The Freedom House’s Civil Liberties Checklist explicitly contains questions that pertain to “rule of law,” e.g., Is there an independent judiciary? Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Is the population treated equally under the law? (Freedom House 2000) If the measures of patrimonialism and democratization do in fact share a common indicator, a statistical correlation then is to be expected. The implication however is that the correlation is not attributable to social fact but to the formulation of the measures.

With regard to Budd’s measure of economic development, it is quite revealing yet rather unfortunate that he chose to measure economic development in terms of economic growth. It is unfortunate because he might have chosen a measure of development that acknowledged the importance of equity. It nonetheless reveals Budd’s attitude towards capitalism. Having said this, it is still commendable that Budd chose to conduct comparative case studies.

To complement the statistical findings, Budd opted to conduct comparative case studies of the developmental and democratization experiences of moderately patrimonial Taiwan and the highly patrimonial Philippines. The analysis was then expanded to include Chile which exhibits low patrimonialism and Peru which ranks somewhere in between moderately patrimonial to highly patrimonial. To enrich the discussions on democratization and development, Budd decided to include Ecuador and Indonesia in his analysis.

Budd devoted the middle chapters of his book to the case studies. In these chapters, he examines the ability of patrimonial states to adopt and implement a coherent development program, to create an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, to establish and maintain democratic institutions, and to “institutionalize uncertainty” in their electoral systems.

In Chapter 2, Budd argues that for a state to formulate and implement a coherent development program, three requisites must be satisfied: vision—so that the state can plan for future challenges and respond to changes in the domestic and international political economies, autonomy—which allows the state to adopt and implement its development plan without intervention from powerful individuals in society, thereby ensuring that the state’s program promotes the national interest rather than particularistic interests; and an effective bureaucracy—so that the state has the capacity to implement its programs (24).

His case studies show that a patrimonial state cannot be a developmental state. The requisites of coherent economic planning are severely lacking in highly patrimonial states. In times of crisis, a strong bureaucracy can find the justification to insulate itself from vested interests and to exercise enough political will to pursue a coherent develop plan. Among the three requisites, having an efficient bureaucracy is most crucial. In the absence of one in the Philippines, crises only weaken an already feeble state.

Budd reports that the Taiwanese developmental state exhibited these three features. Indonesia possessed vision and a relatively strong bureaucracy. The Indonesian state however lacked autonomy and was easily overwhelmed by vested interests. The Philippines lacked all three. Quite interestingly, Budd agrees that lack of vision in the Philippines is attributable to the actions and predispositions of the Philippine political elite (28). He reports “only on rare occasions have Filipino policy-makers risen above particularistic interests in an attempt to develop a coherent plan for the nation’s development” (29). The Chilean state meanwhile followed a fairly coherent development plan. He argues that apart from having a clear vision for development and an efficient bureaucracy, in Chile, one also “finds ‘embedded autonomy,’ in which the state enjoys a degree of autonomy, while still being connected to society” (41). In Peru one finds a weak state, the absence of a coherent development plan and the persistence of patrimonialism.

In Chapter 3, Budd tested the proposition that patrimonial states will be unable to create an environment to entrepreneurship. The proposition is premised on the claims that entrepreneurship is indispensable to economic development, and that creating the proper environment for economic activity can be a function of states. It is at this point where Budd states his position on the issue of state intervention in the workings of the market. While he embraces the “magic of the market,” he also acknowledges that entrepreneurship must first take root before the market can work its magic. He asserts that “entrepreneurship does not take place in a vacuum” (71). Entrepreneurship must be fostered. It is the role of the state to create the environment that is conducive to entrepreneurship. In a patrimonial state like the Philippines, the highly personalistic, arbitrary, and particularistic character of decision-making in lieu of rule of law and political institutions deprives the country of the predictability and the certainty that entrepreneurship requires. In the patrimonial states, the economic elites engage in rent capitalism and speculative activities at the expense of productive economic activity such as manufacturing. For Budd, the failure of the Philippines to industrialize is attributable to “the lack of interest in manufacturing on the part of the Filipino economic elite” (59).

In Chapter 4, Budd focuses on patrimonialism’s impact on institutionalization and democratization. Democratization entails the replacement of authoritarian practices with democratic institutions. For him, institutionalization involves the establishment of a working party system, the maintenance of an effective judicial system, and inevitably constitutional reform. As in the earlier chapters, Budd argues that the personalistic and particularistic character of politics in patrimonial states considerably hinders the possibility of institutionalization. The same is echoed in Chapter 5 where Budd addresses the relationship between patrimonialism and the maintenance of “electoral uncertainty,” i.e., the observance of genuine and free elections. Again, pervasive particularism and personalism hinder Third World states from institutionalizing “electoral uncertainty.” In the Philippines, elections still do not signify the institutionalization of “electoral uncertainty.” The elites, especially in the rural areas, have managed to maintain their hold on power through clientelism and electoral fraud (113).

In positing the need to create an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, Budd clearly states his preference for capitalism. To be sure, he implicitly distinguishes between “productive” capitalism (e.g., manufacturing) and “unproductive” capitalism (e.g., rent capitalism and speculative activities). While capitalism clearly creates winners and losers, Budd is silent with regard to the usual, if not inevitable, disruptive effects of capitalism (including “productive” capitalism) on Third World societies. It is rather unfortunate that he tends to portray Third World societies as if they were devoid of social cleavages and divisions. He rarely mentions in his discussion of economic development the interests of laborers, of marginalized groups, of peasants, et al.

It is at this point that the concept of patrimonialism becomes suspect. The
concepts of particularism and patrimonialism, as used, appear to be inseparable. Patrimonialism is equated with the promotion of particularistic interests at the expense of the national interest or collective good. Here lies the difficulty of the concept: How does one define or arrive at the national interest? Can Third World states promote the interests of marginalized groups at the expense of the majority and still advance the national interest without being guilty of particularism? Should Third World states in advancing the national interest promote the interests of the majority population at the expense of marginalized groups? Are states guilty of particularism when they protect local businessmen but not guilty of the same when they, in the spirit of creating an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, extend special privileges to multinational corporations?

In advocating the value of entrepreneurship, Budd stresses the crucial role of a state insulated from societal pressures, of a ruling elite possessing “vision,” and an effective bureaucracy. Clearly, he acknowledges that a limit should be imposed on mass participation. For Cammack, this signals a preference for elitist democracy (1997, 19). As can be gleaned in the discussion, Budd ascribes very little importance to non-elites. The unfortunate implication of this claim is that the non-elites are given no important role in development or in politics for that matter. It is in fact intriguing why in the concluding chapter of his book he suddenly speaks of “marginalized societal groups” when in the rest of the book they did not exist. His elite-centered approach to development and democracy also reflects an agency-centered approach to politics. Arguably, structural forces also played a role in the economic successes of Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, and in the failures of the Philippines and Indonesia. The Cold War, the presence or absence of a belligerent neighbor, and domestic security problems, among other factors surely have affected the ability of Third World states to achieve economic growth and democracy.

In conclusion, while Budd’s work may be considered a novel contribution to the political development literature, his effort nonetheless reflects the basic shortcomings of the mainstream political development literature. He has adopted an unquestioning acceptance of capitalism. He tends to portray societies as devoid of social cleavages and divisions. As a consequence, he subscribes to an inadequate elite-centered/agency-centered view of change. In privileging patrimonialism, he draws attention away from capitalism thereby shielding it from criticism. Still, a close examination of particularism as a feature of patrimonialism reveals that patrimonialism, as a concept is not without its problems.—Alejandro Ciencia Jr., Assistant Professor, College of Social Sciences, University of the Philippines-Baguio.


Cammack, Paul. 1997. Capitalism and democracy in the Third World: The doctrine for political development. London: Leicester University Press.

Freedom House. 2000. Survey methodology. research/freeworld/2000/methodology.htm

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