HomeΦιλοσοφια: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 22 no. 1 (2021)

Camila Vergara. Systemic Corruption: Constitutional Ideas for an Anti-Oligarchic Republic




Camila Vergara’s book Systemic Corruption is an attempt to review political thought and to lay foundational ideasfor a plebian republic. As the name suggests, she underscores how representative democracy faces political decay through systemic corruption manifested “as an oligarchization of power in society” (2). What is crucial to note in liberal-democratic systems are the oligarchic strongholds that maintain a “democratic” order. The privatization of the public sphere caused by qualifications for political engagement creates spaces of exclusion that simply maintain the status quo or give rise to sudden outbursts of extreme political moves, evident in today’s numerous Far-Right politicians from Trump in the United States and Duterte in the Philippines. In sketching the bleak state of the representative republic, Vergara’s aim is for us to “better appreciate our political regime as an experiment that has led to acute inequality and a dangerous oligarchization of power, and therefore in need of structural reform” (2). In other words, this book is an exercise of philosophic political imagination for a viable society that seeks to “retrieve the constitutional wisdom of past republican experiences with oligarchic domination to find an institutional solution to structural decay” (3). In presenting this, Vergara divides her book into three parts that engage the readers to critique for themselves the political status quo and to accompany her in her political imaginary: a theoretical engagement of corruption and material constitutionality in Part I, historical instances of plebian emergence in Part II, and contemporary appropriations of this phenomenon in Part III.