Argentine Democracy

The Politics of Institutional Weakness

Edited by Steven Levitsky, María Victoria Murillo

Paperback - £28.95

Publication date:

15 February 2006

Length of book:

336 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271027166

During the 1990s Argentina was the only country in Latin America to combine radical economic reform and full democracy. In 2001, however, the country fell into a deep political and economic crisis and was widely seen as a basket case. This book explores both developments, examining the links between the (real and apparent) successes of the 1990s and the 2001 collapse. Specific topics include economic policymaking and reform, executive-legislative relations, the judiciary, federalism, political parties and the party system, and new patterns of social protest.

Beyond its empirical analysis, the book contributes to several theoretical debates in comparative politics. Contemporary studies of political institutions focus almost exclusively on institutional design, neglecting issues of enforcement and stability. Yet a major problem in much of Latin America is that institutions of diverse types have often failed to take root.

Besides examining the effects of institutional weakness, the book also uses the Argentine case to shed light on four other areas of current debate: tensions between radical economic reform and democracy; political parties and contemporary crises of representation; links between subnational and national politics; and the transformation of state-society relations in the post-corporatist era.

Besides the editors, the contributors are Javier Auyero, Ernesto Calvo, Kent Eaton, Sebastián Etchemendy, Gretchen Helmke, Wonjae Hwang, Mark Jones, Enrique Peruzzotti, Pablo T. Spiller, Mariano Tommasi, and Juan Carlos Torre.

“This volume represents a timely, valuable update on Argentina's democracy and its travails, leading up to the great crisis of 2001–2002. The editors and contributors do a nice job of bringing institutional theory to bear on a host of critical issues, and in doing so reveal just how varied Argentine political institutions are in their strength, endurance, and impact on political behavior. The book is also a reminder of how central politics is to the unfolding and potential resolution of crises that are too often visualized in solely economic terms.”

—David Pion, University of California, Riverside