Linking Civil Society and the State

Urban Popular Movements, the Left, and Local Government in Peru, 19801992

By (author) Gerd Schönwälder

Paperback - £33.95

Publication date:

15 October 2004

Length of book:

256 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271025346

With the role of local government becoming more important as Latin American countries moved away from state-led development models in the 1980s, and with social movements helping to bring about the transition to democracy, questions arose about whether and how popular participation at the local level might be able to contribute to the consolidation of democracy from the grassroots upward. This book, based on extensive research in low-income districts of Lima, provides a sophisticated analysis of the relationship between a resurgent civil society and democratization.

Exploring the complex interactions among urban popular movements, local government, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Schönwälder shows that the democratic potential of these movements is genuine but that their influence has been limited. His balanced assessment credits their achievements while illuminating the sources of their failures, mainly a variety of institutional barriers and a persistent threat of manipulation and co-optation by stronger actors, especially political parties. His analysis helps us understand better why the left has so often failed to convert its considerable support at the grassroots into political successes at higher levels.

“Gerd Schönwälder provides a penetrating analysis of the relationships among urban popular movements, political parties, local governments, non-governmental organizations and the electoral Left in Peru from about 1980 to 1992. He tests a variety of theories concerning the complex, even contradictory, interactions among these groups, deftly leading readers through a theoretical framework and then juxtaposing reality against it. . . . Ample references, an extensive list of interviews, and complete footnotes not only aid readers in verifying the assertions and conclusions of the work, but they also demonstrate Schönwälder's mastery of his material. Readers quickly warm to the subject, because Schönwälder obviously enjoys it and the Peruvian people. . . . This is a finely polished gem. It best exemplifies how to research and write this genre of analysis. It is an essential component for understanding the dynamics of modern Peruvian society.”

—Sheldon Avenius, Perspectives on Political Science