This is a bold new study of the recent emergence of democracy in Latin America. Leonardo Avritzer shows that traditional theories of democratization fall short in explaining this phenomenon. Scholars have long held that the postwar stability of Western Europe reveals that restricted democracy, or "democratic elitism," is the only realistic way to guard against forces such as the mass mobilizations that toppled European democracies after World War I. Avritzer challenges this view. Drawing on the ideas of Jürgen Habermas, he argues that democracy can be far more inclusive and can rely on a sphere of autonomous association and argument by citizens. He makes this argument by showing that democratic collective action has opened up a new "public space" for popular participation in Latin American politics.
Unlike many theorists, Avritzer builds his case empirically. He looks at human rights movements in Argentina and Brazil, neighborhood associations in Brazil and Mexico, and election-monitoring initiatives in Mexico. Contending that such participation has not gone far enough, he proposes a way to involve citizens even more directly in policy decisions. For example, he points to experiments in "participatory budgeting" in two Brazilian cities. Ultimately, the concept of such a space beyond the reach of state administration fosters a broader view of democratic possibility, of the cultural transformation that spurred it, and of the tensions that persist, in a region where democracy is both new and different from the Old World models.
"Leonardo Avritzer has written the most ambitious and important contribution to the literature on democratization in Latin America that this reviewer has read in the last several years. . . . [E]xemplary of the best of contemporary political science writing."--William M. Nylen, Latin American Politics & Society
"Leonardo Avritzer has written the most ambitious and important contribution to the literature on democratization in Latin America that this reviewer has read in the last several years. . . . [A] fine example of social science scholarship."--William M. Nylen, Latin American Politics and Society
"This book makes significant contributions to the field, addressing key issues in comparative politics from a variety of perspectives and with a rich series of empirical referents. One of the first studies to develop a normative theory of democracy and democratization from a specifically Latin American perspective, it is at the cutting edge of a growing body of literature that is again examining the role of political culture in the region's politics."--Philip Oxhorn, McGill University
"Democracy and the Public Space in Latin America is an essay in comparative political sociology written in the grand style. An ambitious and intelligent book that could make a significant impact on the literature, it offers a sustained critique of democratic elitism and the distortions that this theoretical perspective has introduced into our understanding of democratization."--Laurence Whitehead, Oxford University
Table of Contents:
ONE. Democratic Theory and Democratization 11
TWO. Democratic Theory and the Formation of a Public Sphere 36
THREE. Democracy and the Latin American Tadition 55
FOUR. The Transformation of the Latin American Public Space 77
FIVE. Democratization in Latin America
The Conflict between Public Practices and the Logic of Political Society 103
SIX. Participatory Publics in Brazil and Mexico
The Compatibility of Public Deliberation and Complex Administration 135
SEVEN. Concluding Remarks on the Democratizing Role of Participatory Publics 165