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  • Adjectives, Asterisks and Qualifications, or How to Address Democracy in Contemporary Latin America
  • Anthony Peter Spanakos (bio)
Learning Democracy: Civic Engagement and Electoral Choice in Nicaragua, 1990–2001. By Leslie E. Anderson and Lawrence C. Dodd . (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. Pp. 336. $65.00 cloth, $24.00 paper.)
The Dubious Link: Civic Engagement and Democratization. By Ariel C. Armony . (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004. Pp. 312. $57.95 cloth.)
Undoing Democracy: the Politics of Electoral Caudillismo. Edited by David Close and Kalowatie Deonandan . (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004. Pp. 228. $70.00 cloth.)
Democracy in Latin America 1760–1900: Volume I, Civic Selfhood and Public Life in Mexico and Peru. By Carlos A. Forment . (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Pp. 488. $39.00 cloth.)
The Democracy Makers: Human Rights and International Order. By Nicolas Guilhot . (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Pp. 288. $45.00 cloth.)
The Quality of Democracy: Theory and Applications. Edited by Guillermo O’Donnell, Jorge Vargas Cullell, and Osvaldo M. Iazzetta . (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. Pp. 288. $55.00 cloth, $25.00 paper.)
Democracy in Latin America: Political Change in Comparative Perspective. By Peter H. Smith . (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 400. $69.00 cloth, $26.95 paper.)
Dilemmas of Democracy in Latin America: Crises and Opportunity. By Howard J. Wiarda with the assistance of Esther M. Skelley . (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005. Pp. 256. $75.00 cloth, $27.95 paper.)

In 1997, David Collier and Steven Levitsky wrote an important article on conceptual innovation and the proliferation of adjectives in front of the word 'democracy', second-guessing the utility and motivation for the hyphenated terms that were being conceived at breakneck speed (Collier and Levitsky, 1997). Nearly a decade later, research continues to modify the word democracy or redefine it altogether. The books included in this review make an argument that this trend is likely to continue so long as the gap between Latin American reality and democratic modeling continues. After reviewing eight different books focusing on diverse subjects, it is evident that the field of democratization must reconsider how it defines democracy, when such a democracy is consolidated, and how to identify regimes that are not quite democratic. In the end, the issue may best be resolved by identifying a small number of basic types of electoral government, for the sake of quantitative and large n- comparative studies, and then modifying these particular types with whatever adjectives are appropriate in more qualitative and case study approaches.

In Dilemmas of Democracy in Latin America: Crisis and Opportunity, Howard J. Wiarda (with Esther Skelley) presents a collection of updated and new articles containing a resounding criticism of democratization literature and foreign policy from one of the earliest critics of developmentalism and the ideas of democracy that it included (Wiarda, 1981, 1985). Unlike so many scholars in recent generations, Wiarda's book deals with theory and grand theory and he remains convinced after four decades of globe-trotting that the U.S. government, Latin Americanists, and even Latin Americans do not really 'get' Latin America. The tendency has been, and remains, for Latin America to be seen either as more 'undeveloped' or 'developed' than it is. The reality, as Wiarda sees it, is that Latin America is far more democratic than critics think, but Latin Americanists must be willing to understand non-democratic adventures in a non-Manichean way. The metaphor that Wiarda resorts to throughout the essays in the book is that Latin American socio-political reality is like a 'crazy-quilt' with multiple levels and influences. There is a presence of what he considers the Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Liberal, Jeffersonian, Madisonian democracy, which is the fundamental model that scholars use to understand Latin America. But there is also a Bolivarian, Rousseauian, Roman Catholic, Organicist tradition that is more important historically and is still very influential. Latin American democracy, Wiarda asserts provocatively, is a synthesis of these influences and though there does seem to be a genuine preference for democracy, the desire for a democracy with a strong president is equally genuine, whether one looks at nineteenth century constitutions or...


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