In Pursuit of Development

Democracy in the Balance: Navigating Latin America's Political Landscape — Gerardo Munck

Episode Summary

Dan Banik and Gerardo Munck discuss state capacity, the role of political parties, and the interplay between democracy and development in Latin America.

Episode Notes

The political landscape of Latin America has undergone major transformation since the democratization wave of the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, most democracies in the region have managed to persist, albeit with a few notable exceptions. However, the quality of these democracies has often been questioned. Guillermo O’Donnell's characterization of Latin American democracies as "strange and flawed yet surviving" aptly captures this scenario. 

In Latin American Politics and Society: A Comparative and Historical Analysis, Gerardo Munck and Juan Pablo Luna argue that while Latin American countries have stabilized democratic systems, the journey towards a fully democratized society remains incomplete, as evidenced by the breakdown of democracy in some parts of the region. Various factors have contributed to the state of democracy in contemporary Latin America. The challenges facing democracy in the region range from the impact of neoliberal economic policies to the influence of external powers like the United States, the role of dominant elites, political culture, state weakness, and corruption. The growing phenomenon of populist leaders such as Nayib Bukele in El Salvador and Javier Milei in Argentina forms a crucial part of our discussion. While scrutinizing the policies of these leaders and their implications for democracy, we also examine the complexities of political inclusion in Latin American societies, including the role of women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and ordinary citizens in Latin American democracies. As scholars often point to the persistent crisis of representation in Latin American politics, it is important to explore the relationship between citizens and politicians, and the role of the judiciary in this dynamic. And although there are major shortcomings in providing equal access to political office for all societal groups, there has also been progress in some areas such as the introduction of gender quotas. A particularly important ongoing debate relates to what is considered the most effective development models for the region.

Gerardo Munck is a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Southern California. His research focuses on democracy and democratization, state capacity, Latin America, and methodology. He has also worked on the evolution of social science knowledge. @GerardoMunck


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