Governance in the Americas

Decentralization, Democracy, and Subnational Government in Brazil, Mexico, and the USA

Robert H. Wilson, Peter M. Ward, Peter K. Spink, and Victoria E. Rodríguez
with Marta Ferreira Santos Farah, Lawrence S. Graham, Pedro Jacobi, and Allison M. Rowland

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Governance in the Americas, a multidisciplinary volume, offers important new insights about decentralization, federalism, and democratic change in the three largest federal nations in the Americas: Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. Originating in a major research project conducted by teams in each of the three countries, this study contributes significantly to our understanding of how representative and participatory democracy is being constructed at state and local levels in the recently emerged democracies of Brazil and Mexico, and is being recast and sustained in the United States. The contributors evaluate the performance of subnational governments, as these societies become more genuinely decentralized, and as new actors and managerial routines create and implement public policy. The authors challenge the criticism of “exceptionalism” in the United States, seeking instead to understand the points of convergence and divergence among the three countries as each seeks to improve the effectiveness and public accountability of its policy-making processes.

Collaborators include Marta Ferreira Santos Farah, Lawrence S. Graham, Pedro Jacobi, and Allison M. Rowland.

Robert H. Wilson is Mike Hogg Professor of Urban Policy and associate dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Peter M. Ward is the C. B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in U.S.-Mexico Relations and professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Peter K. Spink is professor of public administration and government in the School of Business Administration, Getulio Vargas Foundation, São Paulo.

Victoria E. Rodríguez is vice provost and dean of graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin and the Ashbel Smith Professor of Public Affairs.

“This book is ambitious in scope, synthesizing political patterns in three of the hemisphere’s largest countries and most complex economies, discussing a multitude of subnational actors and institutions in each of these countries, and covering broad stretches of time in each country.” — Kent Eaton, University of California, Santa Cruz

“Throughout the world, subnational levels of government are actively absorbing new responsibilities and resources; they are simultaneously under pressure to be more responsive and democratic. But where have these changes come from? How are they affecting the governance of political systems? Will citizens be better off as subnational governments assume a greater role in making decisions and managing public policies and services? This important volume, exploring decentralization and democratization at the subnational level in Mexico, Brazil, and the United States, provides deeply informative responses to these questions. It is a well-crafted ‘must’ for students of decentralization and governance.” — Merilee S. Grindle, Director, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University

“The twenty-first century has brought a new interest in studying the relationship between structures of government and democracy. This book, focusing on three countries in the Americas, is a thorough and important example of the substantive consequences of recent decisions related to centralization and decentralization. It should be on the bookshelves of students of federalism and intergovernmental relations around the globe.” — Beryl A. Radin, American University


“This edited volume examines intergovernmental relations and democratic governance in Brazil, Mexico, and the US. The four editors begin by explaining why this research team examined the three largest federal polities (in terms of population size) in the Americas and what questions they strive to answer. The other five chapters examine how feudalism evolved over two centuries, how the three branches of government operate across the national and subnational levels, contemporary trends in the decentralization of public policy, the interaction between civil society and various levels of government, and reflections on where feudalism is headed in the 21st century.” — CHOICE

“The book emerged out of a promising intellectual project. The co-authors, all experts in public policy, combine considerable knowledge of both Mexico and Brazil. The idea of comparing the three largest federal systems in the Americas excites the imagination, given its potential to advance our understanding of how federalism shapes democratic development (or vice versa).” — Journal of Latin American Studies