Democracy in Latin America: Political Change in Comparative Perspective

Democracy in Latin America: Political Change in Comparative Perspective

by Peter H. Smith
     
 
Democracy in Latin America examines processes of democratization in Latin America from 1900 to the present. Organized thematically, with a unique historical perspective, the book provides a widespread view of political transformation throughout the entire region.

Adroitly blending qualitative and quantitative approaches, Democracy in Latin America offers a new and

Overview

Democracy in Latin America examines processes of democratization in Latin America from 1900 to the present. Organized thematically, with a unique historical perspective, the book provides a widespread view of political transformation throughout the entire region.

Adroitly blending qualitative and quantitative approaches, Democracy in Latin America offers a new and startling explanation for the prevalence of electoral democracy in modern-day Latin America and presents an indepth analysis of political challenges now confronting the region as a whole-including poverty, inequality, and criminality.

Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
This eloquent, epic retelling of Latin America's century-long struggle against elite oligarchy and populist tyranny arrives at the optimistic observation that the vast range of political experiments — left, center, and right — have converged toward democracy. Smith refutes the common notions that Latin American culture is inherently autocratic and that democracies cannot perform as well as nondemocracies in delivering social welfare. Drawing on deep area expertise and empirical tests, he joins the passion of a historian with rationalist political science and smartly enriches institutionalism with issues of identity, values, and culture. Smith's incisive literature surveys and illustrative "boxes" will help make this a favorite college text. However, a visceral anger distorts his assessment of U.S. policy (Kathryn Sikkink's Mixed Signals is a better guide to U.S. human rights policies), and he brands as "unrepresentative" political parties that do not share his own redistributive priorities. And regrettably, the text's argument trails off by ungenerously applying Fareed Zakaria's "illiberal" label to many Latin democracies — even as one of Smith's main references, Freedom House, now finds that most Latin Americans live in freedom. Still, Smith's book is a substantial contribution.
From the Publisher
"I cannot think of a better person than Peter Smith to undertake such a challenging project as this review of a century of Latin American struggles to attain democracy. He combines an intimate knowledge of the history of the twentieth century (his co-authored textbook on post-independence Latin America is the standard in the f ield), a deep understanding of political science, and a keen sense of international relations . . . This very readable, impressively researched and methodologically sophisticated study analyzes the unpredictable and sometimes unsteady course of nineteen Latin American countries to explain how democracy has become widespread . . .Democracy in Latin America will be essential reading for scholars, statesmen, and students concerned with Latin America's place in the world in our uncharted journey through the waters of globalization and the wars on terrorism."—Steven Topik, Department of History, Univ of California, Irvine

"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 on democracy and democratization, not only in relation to Latin America but also elsewhere—I do hope that this exemplary study will serve as a guide and an example for studies of similar quality." — Guillermo O'Donnell, Helen Kellogg Professor of Government, University of Notre Dame

"Peter Smith does a superb job of wrestling with the most challenging conceptual questions related to democracy in Latin America. Drawing on insights from various disciplines and vast and sophisticated knowledge of the region, he puts contemporary debates about democracy in their proper historical perspective. More than a splendid synthesis of wide-ranging material, Smith's first-rate book is an instructive, scholarly contribution that will be an invaluable reference for students and decision makers seeking to enrich their understanding of such a crucial subject."— Michael Shifter, Inter-American Dialogue

"This is the definitive book on the evolution and struggles of democracy in Latin America in the twentieth century. Both a comprehensive historical account and an important work of social science analysis, it is must reading for any student of Latin American politics and a distinguished contribution to the comparative democracy literature." — Larry Diamond, Stanford University

"[Peter Smith] blends history and political science to create an illuminating and readable critical analysis of an issue that is of vital importance to Latin America —and the United States." — Peter Winn, Tufts University

"This book offers a masterful synthesis of extant literature and original research on regime changes and varieties of democratic experiences in 20th century Latin America. The analysis is truly comprehensive, ranging from a focus on social forces, the military, and the international context to constitutions, parties, and elections, and to the state, social equity, civil and political rights, and public opinion. Peter Smith artfully weaves case discussions into the larger theoretical framework and makes a complex reality accessible to undergraduate students." — Evelyne Huber, University of North Carolina

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195157581
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/01/2004
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

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).

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