“Only if You Really, Really Need It”: Social Rights Consciousness in the Philippines


  • Niklas Reese




Citizenship, Communitarianism, Philippines, Political Culture, Social Rights


This article argues that communitarianism, as the prevalent citizenship paradigm in the Philippines, observable also in modest expectations towards government services among Filipinos and a high emphasis on individual and community action, can be used to explain the lack of political change in the Philippines. In its first part, the article presents data on the sense of citizenship and concepts of social rights and obligations among Filipinos by combining findings from a series of problem-centered interviews with young urban professionals and quantitative data collected within annual surveys by the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) on government, social inequality, and citizenship. The second part of the article attributes these findings to everyday concepts of citizenship as ideal-typical state responsibility theories and modern citizenship paradigms. By including ethnographic data, it discovers significant traits of communitarianism in Philippine everyday life. This section goes on to present how communitarianism (with its inherent character of exclusivity) impedes a democratic culture and moreover, how it is unable to serve as a guiding social philosophy in unifying a large-scale society mainly consisting of citizens who are strangers (ibang tao) to each other. Nevertheless, in conclusion, the article suggests the possibility of deepening and broadening the sense of citizenship in the Philippine society and its respect for the stranger by drawing on elements of Filipino culture.

Author Biography

Niklas Reese

Niklas Reese is a social scientist and freelance journalist with regional focus on the Philippines, Germany, and Latin America. He has been working on issues of democratization, gender, migration, social movements, and social security. He completed his PhD on The Sense of Citizenship in the Philippines in 2015. Since 1997, he is engaged in political solidarity work through his involvement with the philippinenbüro – a socio-political information center on the Philippines in Germany.