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The Legitimacy Puzzle in Latin America
Political Support and Democracy in Eight Nations


  • Date Published: May 2009
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521515894

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About the Authors
  • Political scientists have worried about declining levels of citizens' support for their regimes (legitimacy), but have failed to empirically link this decline to the survival or breakdown of democracy. This apparent paradox is the 'legitimacy puzzle', which this book addresses by examining political legitimacy's structure, sources, and effects. With exhaustive empirical analysis of high-quality survey data from eight Latin American nations, it confirms that legitimacy exists as multiple, distinct dimensions. It finds that one's position in society, education, knowledge, information, and experiences shape legitimacy norms. Contrary to expectations, however, citizens who are unhappy with their government's performance do not drop out of politics or resort mainly to destabilizing protest. Rather, the disaffected citizens of these Latin American democracies participate at high rates in conventional politics and in such alternative arenas as communal improvement and civil society. And despite regime performance problems, citizen support for democracy remains high.

    • Discusses public opinion, political behavior, democratic norms, political support, and participation in Latin America
    • Uses extensive interviews with some 12,000 respondents from the 2004 Americas Barometer surveys in eight Latin American countries
    • Addresses political legitimacy and its impact on citizens' political behavior and system stability - a significant and persistent political 'legitimacy puzzle'
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The Legitimacy Puzzle examines the fundamental question of the popular legitimacy of democratic governments in Latin America - and what shapes these attitudes. Using a rich new wave of cross-national surveys, Booth and Seligson make a major contribution to understanding the political cultures of Latin American nations in both theoretical and empirical terms. It will become a landmark for understanding the political attitudes of Latin American publics, and the consequences of legitimacy attitudes on political behavior.' Russell J. Dalton, University of California, Irvine

    'This very smart and appealing book provides further evidence that Mitch Seligson and John Booth are the foremost contemporary students of Latin American political behavior. Drawing upon a wealth of survey data on eight countries spanning fifteen years, the book sets out to understand the 'legitimacy puzzle': specifically, how and why Latin American democracies can survive and continue to function despite declining citizen satisfaction and trust in government institutions and leaders. The authors' analyses of the nature, sources and consequences of political legitimacy are rigorous and painstaking, and their results are both surprising and persuasive. Ultimately they resolve the puzzle with a paradox; far from threatening the survival of democracy, disaffected citizens continue to support democracy while expressing disapproval of the authorities and their policies. Rather than threatening democracy, disaffected citizens are potential sources of reform and renewal. This fascinating book is essential reading for all who value democracy.' William Mishler, University of Arizona

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2009
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521515894
    • length: 376 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 158 x 28 mm
    • weight: 0.61kg
    • contains: 34 b/w illus. 26 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. The legitimacy puzzles
    2. The structure of legitimacy
    3. Countries in the study
    4. The sources of political legitimacy
    5. Legitimacy and political participation
    6. Legitimacy and negative political capital
    7. Legitimacy and democratic values
    8. The sky is not falling: the puzzle solved.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Administration in Developing Countries
    • Latin American Politics
    • Political Economy Gender in Latin America
  • Authors

    John A. Booth, University of North Texas
    John A. Booth is Regents Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas. In addition to his four coedited volumes and fourteen articles and chapters with this study's coauthor, Mitchell A. Seligson, he is the author of Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change (fourth edition 2006 coauthored with Christine J. Wade and Thomas W. Walker); Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy (1998); and The End and the Beginning: The Nicaraguan Revolution (second edition 1985). He has published articles in a wide array of scholarly journals in the United States and Latin America, is an associate editor of International Studies Quarterly, and serves on the editorial board of Latin American Politics and Society.

    Mitchell A. Seligson, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee
    Mitchell A. Seligson is the Centennial Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University and a Fellow of the Center for the Americas and of the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies. He founded and directs the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), which conducts the Americas Barometer surveys that currently cover twenty-two countries in the Americas. He has been a Fulbright Fellow and been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others and has published more than 140 articles, fourteen books, and dozens of monographs. His most recent book is Development and Underdevelopment: The Politics of Global Inequality (fourth edition, 2003, with John Passé Smith).

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