To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Chapter 13 focuses on sustainable development in contemporary Latin America and, more specifically, on the impact of neoextractivism–the exploitation of primary products–on the quality of life of the communities where this economic activity is based. It shows that, although neoextractivism has led to short-term economic growth, it has also created environmental damage that has been especially detrimental to indigenous peoples and the rural poor. It explores protests against neoextractivism through case studies of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, and shows that affected communities had some success in ameliorating the negative consequences of neoextractivism only in Bolivia. Finally, to explain the impact of protests it highlights several factors. Democratic institutions and decentralization create incentives for greater accountability at the local level. Moreover, in some cases, the mobilizational strength and political coordination of local communities leads to collective action. However, the impact of protests is reduced most critically because leaders across the political spectrum have been committed to neoextractivism and have co-opted the mechanism of prior consultation.
The chapter introduces the approach to Latin American politics and society adopted in the book. It discusses the topics covered in the book’s historical overview and anticipates the argument that progress was made regarding democracy and nation building, but that gains concerning state capacity and socioeconomic development have been more elusive. It justifies the focus on democracy in the analysis of contemporary Latin America; argues that Latin America has made progress on easy problems, but failed to resolve hard problems, regarding democracy and citizenship; and introduces the book's overarching argument that problems of democracy have prevented the elimination of problems for democracy, and problems for democracy block the possibility of reducing problems of democracy.
Chapter 7 focuses on political parties as agents of representation that channel citizen interests and values into the policy-making process in contemporary Latin America. It illustrates the flaws of democracy without representative parties through a discussion of Peru, and shows that many Latin American democracies have experienced crises of representation because citizens see many party leaders as cut off from common citizens. To explain the state of parties, it argues that crises of representation persist when neoliberalism is treated as inevitable. It also maintains, through an analysis of parties in Bolivia, Brazil, and Uruguay, that parties become agents of representation due to the work of skillful political leaders, committed activists, and vigorous social movements. It also highlights that a weak state undermines party building because it limits the possibility that elected officials can deliver public goods and engender popular support. It concludes that, although democracy has become the norm in Latin America, few democracies have parties that act as agents of representation, and that this lack of a deep, substantive sense of representation is a key problem of democracy.
Chapter 11 focuses on the new violence that has erupted in many Latin American countries in the early twenty-first century. It shows that Latin America is the most violent region in the world and that violence is perpetrated by drug cartels, gangs, common criminals, militias, and state agents. The chapter explores the causes of violence through case studies of Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) and draws several conclusions. International factors, such as the global drug trade and US policy toward Latin America, have played a largely negative role. The state has failed to guarantee citizen security, in part because it is absent, and in part because it colludes with criminal groups. Additionally, needed reforms of the state’s security forces are not enacted because the democratically elected politicians who have to propose such reforms are threatened or bought off by actors who benefit from violence. This chapter shows that problems of democracy – the poor quality of democracy – and problems for democracy – the failure of democracies to guarantee civil rights such as the right to life – are tightly interconnected.
Chapter 6 describes and explains the political inclusion of disadvantaged groups (women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and ordinary people) in contemporary Latin America. It highlights many impressive accomplishments – most notably, the steps taken to increase the number of women in political office by instituting gender quotas, a mechanism that obliges political parties to field a certain percentage of female candidates. It also discusses how various other institutional innovations have fostered political inclusion. However, it shows that indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants have gained less access to political office than women, and that few steps have been taken to redress this problem. It discusses this problem in Brazil, among other places. Moreover, it points out that institutions offering, in principle, an avenue for citizen input into government beyond voting for representatives are frequently hijacked by governments. It stresses both the promise and the limits of various initiatives to make democracy more inclusive. It concludes that, even though Latin American democracies have become more inclusive, democracy still works better for some groups than for others.
Chapter 8 provides an introduction to civil rights in contemporary Latin America. It proposes a definition of civil rights that encompasses four classes of rights: equality rights, liberty rights, security rights, and due process rights. Relying on data about these rights, it characterizes the state of civil rights in Latin America as mixed. The politically powerful have had to answer for past abuses of human rights; and many rights of women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and LGBTQ+ people have been legally recognized. However, many democracies are corrupt, discriminatory, semi-free, violent, and unjust. This state of affairs is explained in terms of multiple factors. Democracy has served as a stepping stone for some improvement of civil rights, especially when an active civil society has pressed for certain rights. But the impact of democracy is muted because Latin American democracies are not high-quality democracies. Moreover, the judiciary has not been a consistent promoter of civil rights, and the state has also not been capable enough or state agents have not been committed enough to enforce the law uniformly throughout the full territory of a country.
Chapter 12 provides an introduction to social rights in contemporary Latin America. It proposes a working definition of social rights that encompasses five classes of rights: the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to a family life, the right to health, the right to education and participation in cultural life, and the right to decent work and to social security. It uses data on these five classes of rights to show that social rights are a problem for democracy. Social progress across several types of social rights has been widespread and many democracies are partly inclusive. However, most Latin American democracies are unequal democracies. To explain this mixed state of affairs, it considers the impact of several factors. A history of democracy, especially when left-center parties are strong, is associated with relatively easy aspects of redistribution. Social mobilization has also been pivotal in pushing for social rights. However, problems of democracy, such as the weakness of political parties, attenuate democracy’s redistributive potential. Additionally, weak state capacity has been an obstacle to the implementation of redistributive policies.
Chapter 15 addresses economic inequality and its impact on democracy in contemporary Latin America. It illustrates the significance of inequality with discussions of Brazil and Chile, and shows that wealth and income are unequally distributed and that certain categories of citizens (rural dwellers, indigenous people, informal workers) are among the poorest Latin Americans. It stresses that it is paradoxical that several decades after Latin America achieved democracy – a political system based on the idea that citizens are political equals – social inequality remains deep and pervasive. Yet it accounts for the difficulty faced by democratic governments in reducing economic inequality through redistributive policies in terms of the structural and instrumental power of economic elites, the control of the media by economic elites, and the actions of politicians and state agents. The chapter also stresses that persistent economic inequality has negative consequences on democracy and shows how recent political developments in Chile – for decades seen as the poster child of political and economic success in the region – are a warning sign against complacency with economic inequality.
Taking a fresh thematic approach to politics and society in Latin America, this introductory textbook analyzes the region's past and present in an accessible and engaging style well-suited to undergraduate students. The book provides historical insights into modern states and critical issues they are facing, with insightful analyses that are supported by empirical data, maps and timelines. Drawing upon cutting-edge research, the text considers critical topics relevant to all countries within the region such as the expansion of democracy and citizenship rights and responses to human rights abuses, corruption, and violence. Each richly illustrated chapter contains a compelling and cohesive narrative, followed by thought-provoking questions and further reading suggestions, making this text a vital resource for anyone encountering the complexities of Latin American politics for the first time in their studies.
Chapter 5 describes and explains the state of democracy in contemporary Latin America. It shows that the most common problem of democracy is that democracies are low-quality or medium-quality ones. It stresses that even though Latin America has achieved and stabilized democracy, a notable success, it has not democratized fully. It also notes that democracy has broken down in some countries (e.g., Honduras, Venezuela). It argues that multiple factors account for the state of democracy in contemporary Latin America. Ideological differences over neoliberal economic policies have fueled some problems of democracy, as is shown in the cases of Honduras and Venezuela. Changes in various aspects of the international context have helped to stabilize democracies. Additionally, the region’s problems of democracy are also explained by some enduring features of Latin American politics: the exploitation of advantages that accrue to incumbency in political office, the influence of economic power, and the weakness of the state.
Chapter 2 discusses how the sense of nationhood in Latin American countries has evolved since 1880, and how the construction of nations has been closely linked to racial and ethnic identities. It shows that nations were not built from scratch, and that nation builders were conditioned by legacies from pre-Columbian and colonial times. It also demonstrates that nation building is an ongoing, never-finished project. Indeed, it identifies three distinct periods in the process of nation building. In a first period, an elite vision of the nation, which took white, civilized Europe as a model, prevailed. In a second period, a national-popular vision of the nation took center stage, and el pueblo (the people) was considered the true essence of the nation. Finally, in a third, ongoing period, nationhood has been understood in multicultural terms and, for the first time in the history of Latin America, the distinctiveness of indigenous peoples and of Afro-descendants has been recognized and treated as legitimate. It argues that, over time, the sense of nationhood has become more inclusive of different races and ethnicities.
Chapter 3 identifies and discusses three periods in the record of democracy of Latin American countries since 1880. In a first period, one of oligarchic dominance, most countries had a variety of types of authoritarianism and only a few countries had experience with partial democracy. In a second period, that of mass politics and regime instability, the entry of the masses and women into politics created pressure for democratic change, and the region started to gain considerable experience with partial and fuller democracy. However, tensions due to the transition from elite to mass politics and then the Cuban Revolution led to political polarization, high levels of violence, and rule by right-wing dictatorships. Waves of democratization were followed by waves of de-democratization. Finally, in a third, ongoing period, Latin America entered a democratic age. Nearly every country in the region has had a democratic regime. Democracies have become more inclusive, as restrictions on the right to vote, that excluded women and the poor, were no longer imposed. Democracies have also endured. This chapter shows that the history of democracy in Latin America is one of considerable progress.