This book expertly traces the long, erratic, and incomplete path of Latin America’s political and socioeconomic democratization, from a group of colonies lacking democratic practice and culture up to the present. Using the lens of democracy defined by the charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), it examines the periods of US gunboat diplomacy in the Caribbean Basin, the Cold War, the state terrorist dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, the imposition of neoliberalism in the 1990s, and the rise of the Pink Tide in the new millennium.
The meaning of democracy has changed over time, from nineteenth-century liberalism—in which only a handful of wealthy males voted and individuals were responsible for their economic and social conditions—to governments in the late twentieth century that have embraced socioeconomic democracy by assuming responsibility (at least formally) for citizens’ welfare. Latin America’s movement toward democracy has not been linear. The book follows the appearance and evolution of both proponents and opponents of democracy over the last two centuries. The balance of these forces has shifted periodically, often in waves that swept across the entire region. Commitment to democracy does not guarantee implementation, but despite many setbacks, Latin America has made significant progress toward the democratic aspirations set forth in the OAS charter.
Thorough and accessibly written, Democracy in Latin America is an essential text for students studying Latin American politics and history.
Thomas C. Wright is distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Chapter 1: From Caudillos to Oligarchs, 1820s–1910s
Chapter 2: Early Democratization, 1900–1930
Chapter 3: Advances and Setbacks for Democracy, 1930–1948
Chapter 4 : Democracy in the Shadow of the Cold War, 1948–1958
Chapter 5: The Cuban Revolution and Democracy, 1959–1970
Chapter 6: Three Truncated Revolutions, 1968–1990
Chapter 7: The Eclipse of Democracy, 1969–1990
Chapter 8: Democratic Progress and Regression, 1978–2000
Chapter 9: Democracy in the New Millennium, 2000–Present
Select Bibliography: Books in English
With extraordinary knowledge of the trajectory of democracy in Latin America across both time (since Independence) and space (the entire region), Wright shows that democracy has advanced significantly—but in fits and starts. The book is lucid and concise and highlights the major progress toward political inclusion, especially for women and Indigenous peoples, and the insufficient progress toward socioeconomic inclusion. With thoughtful comparisons to the US, Wright shows why achieving democracy and social justice in Latin America has been difficult. He pays appropriate attention to the role of the US—in particular, its frequent support of dictatorial regimes—and other international actors. He is remarkably even-handed, chronicling political repression and electoral abuses by both rightist and leftist regimes. Wright devotes chapters to the 19th century; the early 20th century; the post-Depression era; the first decade of the Cold War; the Cuban revolution; the revolutions in Peru, Chile, and Nicaragua in the 1970s; authoritarian governments and repression in the1970s–1980s; democratic trajectories between 1978 and 2000; and the 21st century. Excellent photographs enhance the prose. Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.
Historians and political scientists alike should welcome this short history of liberal democracy's varying fortunes in Latin America. Writing in a clear and lively style, Wright displays a remarkable ability to draw out common threads running through successive periods in Latin American history and also to capture nuances and diversity of national experiences in the region. This book lends itself to lively discussion in the classroom, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the uncertain future of liberal democracy in our own time and place.
From the legendary nineteenth-century strongmen to the volatile presidential politics of contemporary Latin America, Wright offers a compelling chronicle of the region’s long struggle for democracy: the advances, the setbacks, and the challenges ahead. Clear and concise in its approach, this book is an essential guide for students and an invaluable tool for instructors.
A concise, valuable chronicle of Latin America’s history framed as a struggle for democracy and the tension between its political and socioeconomic dimensions.
10/13/22, Choice Reviews: This book was featured in a roundup of forthcoming political science & economics titles.
The author has written a new introduction to cover the important developments that affect political democracy in Latin America. These updates cover the countries included in pp. 182-189 under the sub-head "Contemporary Developments with Implications for Democracy," you can read the introduction here.