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Democracy in Latin America

Political Change in Comparative Perspective

Second Edition

Peter H. Smith

Publication Date - September 2011

ISBN: 9780195387735

400 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $49.95

Organized thematically--with a unique historical perspective--Democracy in Latin America provides a widespread view of political transformation throughout the entire region


Thoroughly updated in its second edition, Democracy in Latin America provides an in-depth and accessible survey of processes of democratization in Latin America from 1900 to the present. In clear and jargon-free prose, acclaimed author Peter H. Smith examines the origins and evolution of democracy in Latin America; the adoption and reform of electoral institutions; the policy performance of contemporary democracies; the political representation of women, workers, and indigenous peoples; and trends in public opinion.

Adroitly blending qualitative and quantitative approaches, Democracy in Latin America, Second Edition, offers an innovative perspective on democratic change in Latin America. Enhanced by photos and text boxes featuring portraits of personalities, explanations about methodology, and comments on conceptual approaches, it is ideal for undergraduate and graduate courses in political science, history, Latin American studies, and history.


* Updates empirical information on present-day developments, such as women's representation, the empowerment of indigenous peoples, and anti-poverty policies

* Interprets the emergence of the "new Left" as part of a recurring dialectic within Latin American democracy

* Analyzes the changing roles of the judiciary

* Considers the relationship between social status and satisfaction with democracy

* Reassesses the relative balance between "liberal" and "illiberal" democracy throughout the region

* Provides a completely new analysis of public opinion on the basis of raw survey data

* Takes into account the contemporary international environment, inlcuding the rise of China

New to this Edition

  • Thorough updating of empirical information-on such present-day developments as women's representation, the empowerment of indigenous peoples, and antipoverty policies
  • Interpretation of the emergence of the "new Left" as part of a recurring "dialectic" within Latin American democracy
  • Evaluation of the roles of the judiciary
  • Reassessment of the relative balance between "liberal" and "illiberal" democracy throughout the region
  • Completely new analysis of public opinion on the basis of original survey data
  • A focus on the contemporary international environment, including attention to the rise of China

About the Author(s)

Peter H. Smith is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Simón Bolívar Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of California, San Diego. A former president of the Latin American Studies Association, he is the author of more than twenty books, including Talons of the Eagle: Latin America, the United States, and the World, Third Edition (OUP, 2007) and coauthor of Modern Latin America, Seventh Edition (OUP, 2009).

Previous Publication Date(s)

September 2011
February 2005


"There's no real competitor to Democracy in Latin America. Peter Smith provides us with the gold standard of placing Latin American political institutions and policies in historical context and in comparative perspective."--John A. Booth, University of North Texas

"This book is a major achievement. It uniquely combines historical depth, masterful organization of a great mass of information, sophisticated data analysis, shrewd interpretation, and, indeed, great writing. This book is a must for persons interested in democracy and democratization, not only in relation to Latin America but elsewhere."--Guillermo O'Donnell, University of Notre Dame

Table of Contents

    Tables, Figures, and Maps
    Introduction: Dimensions of Democracy
    A Tale of Two Presidents
    Definitions of Democracy
    Overview: Focus and Themes
    Interpretive Arguments
    Analytical Perspectives
    1. Cycles of Electoral Democracy
    Legacies of Independence
    Cycles and Trends
    Global and Comparative Perspectives
    Democratic Dominoes?
    Subregional Variations and the Colossus of the North
    Lessons over Time: Prior Experience
    Democracy and Instability
    2. Transitions and Continuities
    Starting Points
    Economic Requisites?
    Social Forces
    Cycle 1: 1900-1939
    Cycle 2: 1940-1977
    Cycle 3: 1978-2000
    End Games and Elite Bargains
    The Bargaining Process
    Getting to Cases
    Patterns of Change in Perspective
    3. The Military: Heading for the Exits?
    Forging Fatherlands
    Patterns of Participation
    Missions and Regimes
    Wars Against Subversion
    The Democrats' Dilemma: To Amnesty or Not?
    Precedents from Argentina
    Chilean Twists
    Modes of Interaction: The Armed Forces and Democracy
    Has the Military Left?
    4. Global Contexts, International Forces
    Imperialism and Democracy
    The Anticommunist Crusades
    Stemming the Tides of Revolution
    Displacing Inconvenient Democracies
    Economic Issues: Debt and Structural Reform
    The Political Economy of Globalization
    Drugs, Dictators, and U.S. Policy
    International Organizations
    5. Presidents or Parliaments?
    The Terms of Debate
    Envisioning Alternatives
    Proparliamentary Arguments
    Attempts at Reform
    Brazil: Voice of the Voters
    Argentina: Calculating Political Odds
    Chile: A Pact for Presidentialism
    Why Not?
    6. Institutional Variations
    Executive Power
    Means of Election
    To Reelect or Not?
    Sources of Power
    The Legislative Branch
    Electoral Systems and Rules of Representation
    Reelection and Term Limits
    Institutional Performance
    Toppling Presidents?
    Parties and Party Systems
    Taking the Measure of Parties
    Gauging Public Distrust
    7. Elections: Voters, Winners, and Losers
    Expanding the Electorate
    The Range of Choice
    Impacts of Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism
    Legacies of Military Populism
    A Resurgence of the Left
    Digression: Schisms on the Left
    Dilemmas of Democracy: Representation vs. Governance
    8. State Capacity and Policy Performance
    The Latin American State: Roles and Capacities
    Democracy vs. Dictatorship: General Hypotheses
    The Politics of Economic Growth
    Social Impacts: Health and Education
    The Problem of Poverty
    Inequality and Income Distribution
    9. The Politics of Social Equity
    Losing Ground: The Working Class
    Signs of Hard Times
    Zero-Sum Politics
    Women: Moving Up
    Patterns of Participation
    Political Representation
    Positions and Policies
    Gathering Strength: Indigenous Peoples
    Bolivia: Party Politics
    Ecuador: Strength in Social Movements
    Guatemala: Civil War and Genocide
    10. Freedoms, Rights, and Illiberal Democracy
    Gradations of Democracy
    Freedom of the Press
    Antidefamation Laws and Policies
    Analytical Overview
    The Uneven Rule of Law
    The Roles of Courts
    The Changing Content of Electoral Democracy
    Pathways to Full Democracy
    11. The People's Verdict
    The Concept of Political Culture
    Democracy in Principle
    The Relevance of Social Class
    Democracy in Practice
    Case Study: Insights from Argentina
    Political Ideology
    Trust in Institutions
    Roots of Disenchantment
    Activism and Protest
    12. The Dialectic of Democracy
    Findings in Review
    Changing Shapes of Democracy
    Democracy in the Era of Mass Politics
    1940-1977: Dangers of Democracy
    1978-Present: Democracy Made Safe
    1998-Present: Democracy Turns Left
    Epilogue: The Future of Democracy
    The International Environment
    Economic Dimensions
    The Crash of 2007-2009
    Transnational Crime
    Political Developments
    Democratic Tendencies
    The Question of Consolidation
    Deepening Democracy?
    Survival, Institutionalization, and Legitimation
    Alternative Scenarios
    Standing Fast
    Moving Ahead
    Appendix 1. Classification of Electoral Regimes, 1900-2000
    Appendix 2. Military Coups in Latin America, 1900-2000
    Suggested Readings