In this pioneering study of democratization in Argentina, Leslie Anderson challenges Robert Putnam’s thesis that democracy requires high levels of social capital. She demonstrates in Democratization by Institutions that formal institutions (e.g., the executive, the legislature, the courts) can serve not only as operational parts within democracy but as the driving force toward democracy.
As Anderson astutely observes, the American founders debated the merits of the institutions they were creating. Examining how, and how well, Argentina’s American-style institutional structure functions, she considers the advantages and risks of the separation of powers, checks and balances, legislative policymaking, and strong presidential power. During the democratic transition, the Argentinian state has used institutions to address immediate policy challenges in ways responsive to citizens and thereby to provide a supportive environment in which social capital can develop.
By highlighting the role that institutions can play in leading a nation out of authoritarianism, even when social capital is low, Anderson begins a new conversation about the possibilities of democratization. Democratization by Institutions has much to say not only to Latin Americanists and scholars of democratization but also to those interested in the U.S. constitutional structure and its application in other parts of the world.
Historically, Nicaragua has been mired in poverty and political conflict, yet the country has become a model for the successful emergence of democracy in a developing nation. Learning Democracy tells the story of how Nicaragua overcame an authoritarian government and American interventionism by engaging in an electoral revolution that solidified its democratic self-governance.
By analyzing nationwide surveys conducted during the 1990, 1996, and 2001 Nicaraguan presidential elections, Leslie E. Anderson and Lawrence C. Dodd provide insight into one of the most unexpected and intriguing recent advancements in third world politics. They offer a balanced account of the voting patterns and forward-thinking decisions that led Nicaraguans to first support the reformist Sandinista revolutionaries only to replace them with a conservative democratic regime a few years later. Addressing issues largely unexamined in Latin American studies, Learning Democracy is a unique and probing look at how the country's mass electorate moved beyond revolutionary struggle to establish a more stable democratic government by realizing the vital role of citizens in democratization processes.