Decentralization and Democracy in Latin America

Edited by Alfred P. Montero and David J. Samuels

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

“This book addresses an important topic; it is theoretically well framed by the editors, and the contributions are strong.”—Frances Hagopian, University of Notre Dame

The nine essays in this collection represent the first book-length treatment of one of the major changes that have shaped Latin America since independence: decentralization of the state. Contributors argue that though the assignment of political, fiscal, and administrative duties to subnational governments has been one of the most important political developments in Latin America, it is also one of the most overlooked. This volume is divided into three sections. Part one presents an overview of the topic by the editors; part two considers the political origins of decentralization; and part three examines decentralization and economic reforms.

Decentralization and Democracy in Latin America explores the causes of decentralization in six significant case studies: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela. Shorter analyses of Uruguay and Peru are also included. The essays in this volume find substantial common ground across regime types, historical periods, and countries, and yield several substantive conclusions. First, historical-institutional and socioeconomic legacies matter. Second, democratization and neoliberal reform are neither necessary nor sufficient to explain decentralization. Finally, institutional and electoralist approaches, supplemented with analysis of macro and distal factors, offer the most promising avenues for further research.

This book will be important for all students and scholars of Latin America and comparative politics.

ALFRED P. MONTERO is the Frank B. Kellogg Professor of Political Science at Carleton College.

DAVID J. SAMUELS is Distinguished McKnight University Professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.

Contributors: Alfred P. Montero, David J. Samuels, Kathleen M. O’Neill, Gary Bland, Kent Eaton, Michael Penfold-Becerra, Caroline C. Beer, Erik Wibbels, Stephan Haggard, and Steven B. Webb.


“Montero, Samuels, and the contributors are to be congratulated for producing a volume that is coherent, integrated, and timely. Graduate students and professionals will not only find it useful empirically and analytically but also will consider it a mine for endless propositions and hypotheses for testing and investigating. Overall, Decentralization and Democracy in Latin America is a valuable and solid volume.” — Perspectives on Political Science

“This edited volume brings together some of the finest works on decentralization in Latin America produced in the U.S. in recent years. The book is sound, both theoretically and empirically, and the different chapters nicely complement each other. . . . this book is likely to become part of the reading lists of Latin American politics seminars.” — The Americas

“This book deals with an interesting topic, but at the same time offers the reader an excellent starting point for understanding the phenomenon in its contextual and comparative dimension without losing the particular development of each individual country. It is without doubt a well-written book.” — Political Studies Review

“The book . . . adopts a predominantly political focus in its analysis of decentralization. The concentration is on process rather than outcome—and what outcomes are discussed are those at the level of intergovernmental relations, rather than the results on the ground. This approach has the virtue of concentrating the analytical focus, and the editors have done a splendid job in ensuring that the various contributors not only focus on the same issues and adopt broadly but not entirely the same approach, but even engage in a certain level of interchange—occasionally a mild disagreement—between the chapters. The book also has a strong sense of history—something often lacking among the more committed advocates of decentralization.” — Perspectives on Politics