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Reviewed by:
  • Authoritarian Legacies and Democracy in Latin America and Southern Europe
  • George Philip
Authoritarian Legacies and Democracy in Latin America and Southern Europe. Edited by Katherine Hite and Paola Cesarini. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. Pp. x, 350. Tables. Notes. References. Index. $60.00 cloth; $30.00 paper.

The editors of this book, who also co-author the first chapter, broadly define authoritarian legacies as interferences in or impairments to the quality of democracy, [End Page 694] which can be related specifically to unresolved or uncorrected inheritances from the past. These inheritances include institutional rules as well as norms and values. The authors hope to trace the sequence and mechanisms that are at work in this process rather than just pointing to historical continuities as evidence in themselves. The approach adopted is comparative and thematic, with several chapters taking a South American and a South European case on a "compare and contrast" basis. (Despite the words "Latin America" appearing in the title, there is little in the book on Mexico, Cuba or Central America). There are three chapters, by Hagopian on the economy, Cruz on citizenship and Aguero on the military, which cover Latin America alone. Most chapters deal with aspects of the role of the state, including the role of the judiciary, the role of the military, policing patterns and the question of how incoming democratic systems decided to deal with abuses committed under previous authoritarian systems. The word "legacy" is therefore interpreted very directly. The point that most of the countries under consideration have a significant, and complex, pre-authoritarian legacy as well as a more recent authoritarian legacy is mentioned in passing but not really considered at length.

The work as a whole is interesting and in some ways illustrative. This reviewer has no doubt that historical analysis can help illuminate contemporary realities in all kinds of ways, and the articles in this collection broadly succeed in doing this. Some patchiness is probably inevitable in view of the ambitious nature of the topic and the work does raise questions that are touched on only in passing, some of which might have merited more attention. One of these is the legacy of various kinds of hybrid politics in South America, in other words forms of politics that are not exactly dictatorial but not quite democratic either. Argentina's Peronism, at any rate prior to 1983, is one such example.

In a similar vein, most authors tend to focus more on the manifestly repressive features of authoritarian states (for example, heavy policing) than on the legacies of the more populist style of authoritarian politics that has also occurred in the region. The chapter by Felipe Aguero on the military is a case in point. It deals very competently with authoritarian transitions in several countries but does not deal at all with the kind of military populism that persuaded the Bolivian electorate to return ex-dictator Banzer to the presidency or persuaded the Venezuelan electorate to do the same with ex-golpista Chavez. Nor could I find any reference at all to Peru's Sendero Luminoso, which might well be regarded as an authoritarian legacy in itself. This is probably explained by the fact that Aguero, like other contributors, discusses Brazil and the Southern Cone much more than the Andean republics. However a broader approach to the entire region would require a conclusion that not all military officers are right-wing repressives and not all civilians are builders of democracy.

While the work makes a valiant effort to be genuinely comparative, the conclusion reached by this reviewer is that authoritarian legacies in Italy and Spain (or Europe in general) play a much lesser role in those countries than they do in South America. In Europe, the break with authoritarianism seems to have been much more complete and more successful than in most of Latin America, Uruguay being the [End Page 695] main exception. It is an interesting question why this should be so. Important factors include the transforming effect of economic change (economic growth was much higher in post-authoritarian Europe than post-military South America) and the role of the European Union and (in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6247
Print ISSN
0003-1615
Pages
pp. 694-696
Launched on MUSE
2006-05-04
Open Access
No
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