Edited by Guillermo O’Donnell, Jorge Vargas Cullell, and Osvaldo M. Iazzetta
Guillermo O’Donnell recently taught a seminar at the University of Notre Dame on democratic theory. One of the questions explored in this class was whether it is possible to define and determine the “quality” of democracy. Jorge Vargas Cullell, a student in this course, returned to his native country of Costa Rica, formed a small research team, and secured funding for undertaking a “citizen audit” of the quality of democracy in Costa Rica. This pathbreaking volume contains O’Donnell’s qualitative theoretical study of the quality of democracy and Vargas Cullell’s description and analysis of the empirical data he gathered on the quality of democracy in Costa Rica. It also includes twelve short, scholarly reflections on the O’Donnell and Vargas Cullell essays.
The primary goal of this collection is to present the rationale and methodology for implementing a citizen audit of democracy. This book is an expression of a growing concern among policy experts and academics that the recent emergence of numerous democratic regimes, particularly in Latin America, cannot conceal the sobering fact that the efficacy and impact of these new governments vary widely. These variations, which range from acceptable to dismal, have serious consequences for the people of Latin America, many of whom have received few if any benefits from democratization. Attempts to gauge the quality of particular democracies are therefore not only fascinating intellectual exercises but useful practical guides for improving both old and new democracies.
This book makes important strides in addressing the increasing practical and academic concerns about the quality of democracy. It will be required reading for political scientists, policy analysts, and Latin Americanists.
Contributors: Guillermo O’Donnell, Jorge Vargas Cullell, Osvaldo M. Iazzetta, Gabriela Ippolito, Laurence Whitehead, Terry Lynn Karl, Juan E. Méndez, Norbert Lechner, María Hermínia Tavares de Almeida, Catherine M. Conaghan, Manuel Alcántara Sáez, Michael Coppedge, Sebastián L. Mazzuca, and Gerardo L. Munck.
“The primary goal of this unique and compelling book is to provide the theoretical and empirical foundations for what the authors hope will be a new wave of interest in the quality of democracy.” — Perspectives on Politics
“This book deserves to be carefully read by anyone interested in democracy, and especially democracy in Latin America. Its main innovations are probably methodological and empirical rather than theoretical. . . . [T]he book will probably stimulate fruitful arguments about whether or not we need to re-evaluate Latin American democracies in light of the notion of democratic quality. It is a challenging, important, and complex volume.” — The Americas
“. . . striking individual insights. . . .” — Political Studies Review
“O’Donnell fundamentally re-envisions the term ‘democracy,’ no longer the once ubiquitous—now automatically assumed—polyarchy, but something that draws on literature on democracy, human development, and human rights to produce a radically new definition. Each of these areas, O’Donnell argues, bases its claims on the idea of human agency.” — Latin American Research Review