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The Quality of Democracy and Political Parties and Institutions in Latin America

Please read the chapters highlighted in bold on this reading list. This should give you an overview of the main themes which shape Latin American Politics today.
Also read chapter 5 in the Auyero book: This is a quick read that will give you an overview of what politics feels like on the ground in Latin America (clientilism). Once you think you have a general feel for the topics, read up on at least one specific country that you are interested in studying in more detail during your MPhil. Whatever your topic, you will need to have a basic grasp of the political issues in that country. Many of the books listed below have specific country chapters that will give you such an overview, but they are not very recent. So try to find your own more up-to-date literature on the country that you intend to focus on.

Topics for discussion in class

  • On the whole, Latin America has entered a new phase of democracy: except for a few exceptions in the region, many countries have entered a phase of democratic stabilisation following their transitions to democracy after authoritarian regimes. Democracy in Latin America is now mostly taken for granted. Institutions are functioning across the region. But how democratic are Latin American democracies really? How well do they function? How would you rate the quality of Latin American democracy?
  • Neoliberal policies dominated in the region until at least the first decade of the 21st-century. These policies, however, have now been challenged in many different ways. Social movements and political protests have gathered momentum across the region in recent years as the educational level of electorates has increased and the standard of living of emerging middle classes lags behind their expectations and aspirations. This has also led to many other expressions of political protest, such as the fragmentation of traditional political parties, new independent political actors promising alternatives to established elites, and in some cases also political and institutional reform. Yet at the local level mechanisms of clientelism and political brokerage remain in place. How is democracy in Latin America dealing with these new challenges? To what extent are democracy and socio-economic development intertwined in the region?
  • Governments of the "new left" in Latin America (for example Lula/Rousseff in Brazil, Bachelet in Chile, Toledo in Peru), populist regimes (such as the Kirchners in Argentina, Morales in Bolivia, Chavez/Maduro in Venezuela, and Correa in Ecuador), as well as right-wing alternatives (such as Uribe/Santos in Colombia, Fox/Calderon in Mexico or Piñera in Chile) are all facing or have faced similar levels of protest and crises. Latin American countries that did not engage in extensive neoliberal reforms have not really performed better in terms of their development process than countries which did, while populist regimes across the region are all facing their own political crises with different degrees of severity. Again, all governments in the region found that they were in trouble once the region's commodity boom ended. Why has this happened? Is there any development paradigm that works in the region? To what extent are modern democracies in Latin America still hampered by political patterns from the past, such as oligarchic structures, elite politics, and commodity fuelled populism?

General overview readings

  • Close (2010) Latin American: An Introduction. University of Toronto Press. Read at least chapters 3, and 6 for a brief overview of the main topics. Hopefully also read chapter 7. (see Moodle)
  • Smith (2016) Democracy in Latin America: Political Change in Comparative Perspective. Oxford University Press. Read at least chapter 6. (see Moodle)

Books that have specific chapters on individual countries that may be of interest

  • Auyero (2000) Poor People's Politics: Peronist survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita. Duke University Press. Read Chapter 5. (e-book)
  • Dominguez and Shifter (2013) Constructing Democratic Governance in Latin America. John Hopkins University Press. Country chapters on Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela.
  • Hagopian and Mainwaring (2005) The Third Wave of Democratisation in Latin America: Advances and Setbacks. Cambridge University Press. Includes chapters on Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. Try to read at least chapter 1, which gives an overview of the third wave of democratization in Latin America. (see Moodle)
  • Levitsky and Roberts (2011) The Resurgence of the Latin American Left. The John Hopkins University Press. Country chapters on and Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru , and Venezuela.
  • Luna and Rovira (2014) The Resilience of the Latin American Right Paperback – July 24, The John Hopkins University Press (July 24, 2014) Country chapters on Andean countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and El Salvador.
  • Mainwaring and Scully (2010) Democratic Governance in Latin America. Stanford University Press (The book also includes specific chapters on Chile, Costa Rica, and Brazil.) Look at chapter 7, in particular at the diagram on p. 258 (note the page number may vary depending on the edition). (see Moodle)
  • Silva (2009) Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America. Cambridge University Press. Country chapters on Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Chile.
  • Skidmore and Smith (2013) Modern Latin America. Oxford University Press. This book contains several overview chapters that range from colonial foundations to modern times. It has specific country chapters on Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and Cuba, as well as very short overview chapters on smaller countries not covered in other books, such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
  • de la Torre and  Arnson  (2013) Latin American Populism in the Twenty-First Century. Woodrow Wilson Center Press / Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Vanden and Prevost (2014) Politics of Latin America: The Power Game. Oxford University Press. Chapters on specific topics such as religion, society, family and gender. Specific country chapters on Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.
  • Weyland, Madrid and Hunter (2010) Leftist Governments in Latin America: Successes and Shortcomings. Cambridge University Press. Country chapters on Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile.