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Boundary Control: Subnational Authoritarianism in Federal Democracies

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The democratization of a national government is only a first step in the diffusion of democracy throughout a country's territory. Even after a national government is democratized, subnational authoritarian “enclaves” often continue to deny rights to citizens of local jurisdictions. Edward L. Gibson offers new theoretical perspectives for the study of democratization in his exploration of this phenomenon. His theory of “boundary control” captures the conflict pattern between incumbents and oppositions when a national democratic government exists alongside authoritarian provinces (or “states”). He also reveals how federalism and the territorial organization of countries shape how subnational authoritarian regimes are built and how they unravel. Through a novel comparison of the late nineteenth-century American “Solid South” with contemporary experiences in Argentina and Mexico, Gibson reveals that the mechanisms of boundary control are reproduced across countries and historical periods. As long as subnational authoritarian governments coexist with national democratic governments, boundary control will be at play.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Gibson’s conceptualization of boundary control as a key mechanism that facilitates the maintenance of subnational authoritarianism in the context of national level democracies is a foundational contribution to an important and growing literature. The explanation of dynamics in three very different cases - the "Solid South" in the United States, Argentina and Mexico - is compelling, and the book is beautifully written. This is a must-read for anybody interested in the complexities of democratization."
Evelyne Huber, Morehead Alumni Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"This is an imaginative and path-breaking book. The conceptual and theoretical work Gibson accomplishes will help usher in a new scholarly conversation made even more urgent by the uneven nature of democratizations since the "third wave". By taking a subnational turn in thinking about regime change, Gibson reveals how the rise of authoritarian rule and its demise are often much more complex and contradictory processes than we had realized. Comparativists - including their less parochial Americanist colleagues - can make great use of what Gibson has achieved."
Robert Mickey, University of Michigan

"Professor Gibson’s ambitious new book involves a far-reaching reassessment of some core assumptions in comparative politics. It contests the bias toward the "national-level" unit of analysis, and proposes a more conceptually sophisticated understanding of territorial politics, with its specific logic and consequences. This approach is grounded on an insightful examination of some major instances that are not normally juxtaposed. In particular, Gibson looks at the US political system through a distinctive and illuminating comparative lens. This is a bold contribution likely to provoke a lively debate."
Laurence Whitehead, Senior Research Fellow in Politics, Nuffield College, University of Oxford

"After laying out the theoretic construct, Gibson builds inductively from case studies: the US (the "Solid South"), Argentina and Mexico. By opening up the black box of subnational politics, and problematizing the interaction between national and territorial regimes, Gibson provides an important contribution to the comparative study of democratization. Summing up: highly recommended."
S. P. Duffy, Choice

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Edward L. Gibson is Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. He is the author of Class and Conservative Parties: Argentina in Comparative Perspective and editor of Federalism and Democracy in Latin America. He is also author of several scholarly articles on party politics, democratization and federalism. Professor Gibson has received awards from the National Science Foundation CAREER Program, the Howard Foundation and other institutions. He teaches courses on democratization, comparative politics, Latin American politics and federalism, and has received numerous teaching awards, including Northwestern University's McCormick Professorship of Teaching Excellence.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. Territorial politics and subnational democratization: charting the theoretical landscape; 3. Subnational authoritarianism in the United States: boundary control and the 'Solid South'; 4. Boundary control in democratizing Argentina; 5. Boundary control in democratizing Mexico; 6. Boundary control: comparisons and conclusions.

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