The Americas 60.4 (2004) 676-678
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Following nearly two decades of military rule in most of Latin America, the post-Cold War period has produced a prodigious amount of literature on democratization in the region. This body of work has sought to categorize, differentiate, and build theoretical frameworks for explaining national and regional successes in democratization and failures in building and institutionalizing democratic societies. Incomplete Democracy, by Chilean political sociologist Manuel Antonio Garretón, is a collection of essays that addresses these theoretical and conceptual issues of democratization in Latin America, emphasizing the interplay between the political activism of civil society and democracy's success. The first half of the book provides a framework for understanding current and future democratization in the region while the second half uses this framework to examine the relative democratic success of post-Pinochet Chile. [End Page 676]
Garretón's principal research interest is what he terms the "contamination between political and social democracy" (p. 37). He emphasizes that electoral democracy without greater economic equality will not be sufficient to guarantee democracy's future in the region, a conclusion bolstered by (or taken from) recent Latinobarómetro surveys. But, he is most concerned with understanding the ways in which Latin American society has changed in terms of its nature, its expectations of politics, and the underlying political ideologies that influence society. A central argument that the author purports is that for democracy to be successful it is necessary to mold democracy to each country's specific history and characteristics. For Garretón, democracy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, stating that democracy is characterized within society by a tension and interplay between ethical principles and the institutions created to embody them. He notes that neoliberal restructuring and its resultant openness have created a "brave new world," in which societal actors no longer seek permission or support to participate in politics from a weakened state that no longer is the largest owner, employer, or welfare provider. Politics is increasingly a product of international as well as domestic actors and issues.
In assessing the fall and resurrection of Chile's democracy, Garretón places the blame for Chile's military golpe de estado squarely on social and political groups who put selfish self-interests ahead of the broader societal good. Conversely, he credits the country's eventual success in regaining democracy to a recovery of societal cooperation in the face of a murderous regime. First, he elucidates the numerous ways in which Chilean civil society resisted, protested, and ultimately triumphed over Pinochet. It is this strength and profound resistance of civil society that is offered as the "silver bullet" that created the success of Chile's re-democratization. Second, he notes that Chile has had a long history of broad representation of the entire political spectrum, not just one extreme or the other. This inclusiveness was atypical in comparison to Central American or fellow Southern Cones states, and has been an important contribution to the success of Chilean democratization.
In conclusion, Garretón offers an analysis of the importance of post-democratization events to Chilean democracy, such as Pinochet's senator-for-life appointment and his attempted extradition to Spain on charges of crimes against humanity. From the amount of space that Garretón dedicates to the topic, it is clear that the specter of Pinochet still looms large over the political memory of modern Chilean democrats. The author also offers a critical assessment of the results of neoliberal reforms in the region and their impact on Chile and the region as a whole. It is nonetheless his assertion that the fundamental hurdle that Latin America's democracies face is political, not economic (though he does recognize that economic performance can and does affect Latin Americans attitudes toward the utility and...