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State Crisis in Fragile Democracies
Polarization and Political Regimes in South America

$31.99 (C)

  • Date Published: May 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108401418

$ 31.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This book offers a novel political-institutional explanation for variation in political polarization, outsider populism, and the fate of democratic regimes across twenty-first-century South America. Drawing upon a wealth of primary evidence and employing process tracing tests to evaluate key causal claims, the book examines how the occurrence - or not - of state crises and the inherited strength of left wing political actors combined to push countries onto distinct party system trajectories characterized by different kinds of left parties and movements, highly variant levels of polarization, and ultimately divergent political regime dynamics. The book challenges extant interpretations of political variation during Latin America's turn to the left, which have centered on economic explanations. It also develops new theoretical propositions for understanding polarization, populism, and democratic erosion in young democracies across the world.

    • Develops a new political-institutional explanation of South America's 'two lefts' and the divergent fates of the region's democratic regimes, challenging existing understandings that have focused on economic variables
    • Develops new theoretical propositions for understanding 'polarizing populism' around the world
    • Explicitly applies process tracing tests to evaluate causal claims
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Advance praise: 'Latin America’s 'Left Turn' produced strikingly diverse outcomes, ranging from moderate reform and stable democracy in Chile and Uruguay to polarization and democratic erosion in Ecuador and Venezuela. Although numerous studies have sought to explain this variation, State Crisis in Fragile Democracies stands out as the best. Building on Guillermo O’Donnell, Handlin’s book highlights the centrality of the state in shaping party system and regime outcomes in Latin America. It demonstrates with impressive rigor that it was state crisis - not public opposition to neoliberalism, the weakness of political parties or commodity rents - that drove polarizing populism and democratic crisis in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. This book will make an enduring contribution to our understanding of contemporary populism and political regimes. I recommend it to all students of Latin American politics.' Steven Levitsky, Harvard University

    Advance praise: 'State Crisis in Fragile Democracies: Polarization and Political Regimes in South America is a major work on some of the most politically and theoretically important issues in contemporary South American politics. What explains different trajectories in party system polarization and political regimes in the post Cold-War era in Latin America? Samuel Handlin's book advances a novel theoretical argument and makes an important empirical contribution on both of these burning issues.' Scott Mainwaring, Harvard University

    Advance praise: 'State Crisis in Fragile Democracies is an impressive piece of work that breaks new ground in the study of political institutions, polarization, and democracy in South America and beyond. Samuel Handlin provides an original interpretation for the rise of two quite different 'lefts' in the recent Latin American experience, placing the paradigmatic cases of Brazil and Venezuela in a larger comparative perspective. This interpretation highlights the importance of political factors in shaping different types of leftist alternatives, focusing on the interaction between state crises and the organizational strength of the left at the end of the Cold War. This book is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the sources of political and ideological polarization, as well as its impact on democratic governance.' Kenneth M. Roberts, Cornell University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108401418
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.495kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Puzzles and Theoretical Explanations:
    1. State crises, the left, and democracy in contemporary South America
    2. Explaining divergent party system trajectories and regime dynamic
    Part II. Venezuela and Brazil:
    3. Venezuela: development of a highly polarizing party system
    4. Brazil: development of a weakly polarizing party system
    5. Democratic erosion in Venezuela, representative democracy in Brazil
    Part III. Perspectives across South America:
    6. Bolivia and Ecuador: high polarization and democratic erosion
    7. Chile and Uruguay: low polarization and representative democracy
    8. Paraguay and Peru: low polarization and polyarchy
    Part IV. Conclusion:
    9. Longer-term legacies and comparative perspectives around the world
    Appendix A. Operationalization of state crisis and left-wing infrastructure
    Appendix B. Operationalization of polarization and regime categories

  • Author

    Samuel Handlin, University of Utah
    Samuel Handlin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Utah. He is the co-editor and co-author of Reorganizing Popular Politics: Participation and the New Interest Regime in Latin America (2009, with Ruth Berins Collier). He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011 and was previously a Visiting Fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

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