- The Politics of Democratic Consolidation: Southern Europe in Comparative Perspective
The large-scale transition from authoritarianism to democracy that has taken place around the world in the course of the last two decades has attracted much attention and generated wide-ranging research. While debates about transitions to democracy persist, there is a consensus that a transition alone hardly guarantees that a country will remain democratic. The long-term sustainability of a democratic regime requires its consolidation, which is the issue addressed by this volume, the first installment in a five-volume series on the “new Southern Europe.” Since Greece, Spain, and Portugal were at the forefront of what has been dubbed the “third wave” of democratization and have gone on to [End Page 365] consolidate their regimes successfully, they constitute prime cases from which to derive an understanding of what makes for a successful consolidation of democracy—an issue with obvious and far-reaching political relevance.
The book has two chief qualities. The first is its uncompromising com-parative scope and the subsequent complementarity of its parts. The editors avoid a common pitfall of edited volumes: lack of integration and unifying perspective. Rather than providing a collection of loosely connected case studies, this book places the experience of the four Southern European countries (the three countries mentioned above plus Italy) within a common framework. What is more, the contributors comply with this format without overlooking country differences and specificities. Indeed, the book truly reads as if it were written collectively.
The second quality of the book lies in its ambition to transcend the boundaries of Southern Europe and draw insights from the understanding of that region’s experience to be used more generally in the theoretical study of democratic consolidation.
Because it is a collective enterprise, this book is more than the sum of its parts. Even though its contributors focus on different issues, they share the same understanding of the problem and concentrate their attention on the book’s central issue—democratic consolidation. Edward Malefakis provides the book’s historical justification. He makes a very convincing case for the common treatment of the four Southern European countries, not only in terms of their recent experience but also—and this is a remarkable point—from a macrohistorical perspective. He also shows convincingly why the Greek case, which is geographically and historically more distinct, ought to be part of a study of Southern Europe. Leonardo Morlino and José R. Montero rely on the only comparative Southern European public opinion survey to show that democratic regimes in all four nations have been enjoying mass legitimacy. Felipe Agüero provides a theoretically grounded yet finely nuanced account of the conditions of establishment of civilian supremacy over the military—a central condition of democratic consolidation. His analysis of how to exert control over a military that lacks “democratic socialization” is significant and innovative. Geoffrey Pridham focuses on the role of the international context and underlines the importance of the process of European integration. Juan J. Linz, Alfred Stepan, and Richard Gunther go beyond Southern Europe. In their ambitious piece they compare the Southern European consolidation processes to ongoing developments in Eastern Europe.
One of the book’s most important findings concerns the central position of political parties in consolidation processes. The importance of strong and well-disciplined parties is underlined both by Leonardo Morlino, whose focus is specifically on the ways political parties impact the process of consolidation, and by Gianfranco Pasquino, whose piece on the relations between the executive and the legislative underlines the importance of strong executives and hence (in the context of parliamentary systems) well-disciplined parties. Likewise, Sidney Tarrow’s imaginative comparison of the modes of popular mobilization and demobilization in pre-Fascist Italy and post-Franco Spain emphasizes, among [End Page 366] other things, the difference that the presence of a well-disciplined left-wing party can make. Finally, Philippe C. Schmitter’s article on developments in the...