Issues in Democratic Consolidation

The New South American Democracies in Comparative Perspective

Edited by Scott Mainwaring, J. Samuel Valenzuela, and Guillermo O’Donnell

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Since 1974, there has been an unprecedented wave of democratization in the world. This trend has been particularly extensive in South America. But the problems confronting these new democracies are staggering, and the prospects for building consolidated democratic regimes are far from uniformly good. Focusing primarily on recent South American cases, Issues in Democratic Consolidation examines some of the difficulties of constructing consolidated democracies and provides a critical examination of the major issues involved.

A prominent theme running through this collection is that the transitions from authoritative rule to civilian government may be arrested by political, economic, and social constraints. The articles contain analyses of the varied modalities and complex processes related to the transitions. The first transition begins with the initial stirrings of crisis under authoritarian rule that generate some form of political opening and greater respect for basic civil rights, and ends with the establishment of a government elected in an open, competitive contest. The volume’s primary focus, however, is on the second transition, which begins with the inauguration of a democratic government and ends—if all goes well—with the establishment of a consolidated democratic regime.


“Seven leading scholars, all associated with Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, have contributed to this path-breaking symposium volume on the second stage of South America’s contemporary transitions toward democratic governance.”—Foreign Affairs

”. . . This volume promises to remain one of the seminal guides for research on democratic politics in Latin America. The intriguing insights and the significance of the questions posed should concern both students of Latin American politics and those who wise up to track the evolution of democratic politics into the next century.”—National Political Science Review

“While much has been written of late on the issue of democratization, the approach here has two advantages over many of its competitors. First, it is tightly focused geographically, confining itself almost entirely to South American cases. . . . Second, and more importantly, the authors all concern themselves with the same theme, namely what the editors term ‘the second transition to democracy.’ In the first transition, authoritarian rule breaks down and governments are elected by universal suffrage and under conditions of respect for civil liberties. The second transition is the process by which these elected governments are consolidated. The book the, as the title states, is a study of the process of democratic consolidation. . . . [It] gives us many critical signposts to follow in attempting to predict the course of the second transition, the one to stable democracy.”—American Political Science Review

“. . . This is an excellent volume that will help readers understand the dramatic changes reshaping political life throughout the globe at the close of the twentieth century. . . . [It] is a sobering and essential volume, reminding us of the risks the new democratic regimes face. . . . Readers seeking some first-rate thinking about these issues will be well served with the essays. . . .”—Political Science Quarterly

“. . . This volume makes an important contribution to the study of transitions and democratic consolidation. The overall conclusion of the book, namely that the new democracies of South America do not seem to be moving ahead towards democratic consolidation, seems to be well-taken and supported by up to date evidence. . . .”—Journal of Latin American Studies