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Perhaps no theme has so dominated the research agenda of comparative politics in recent years as that of the transition to democracy. The subject has obvious normative appeal, compelling political significance, and theoretical importance. Furthermore, the spectacular collapse of each authoritarian regime has added a new set of impatient area scholars to the ranks of the comparative political scientists already committed to the study of what Samuel Huntington has called the "third wave" of democratization.(1) Newcomers to the field will discover a rich literature inspired by the experiences of the southern European and Latin American countries caught earlier in the "wave." The "transition" studies, which steered the field of Latin American politics for a decade, were especially successful both at identifying the factors that prompted the various transitions from authoritarian rule and at explaining how those transitions were sustained against resistance from hard-liners in the security forces and how the opposition movements of civil society contributed to democratization. These studies, indeed, provide a model of regime change that can be applied around the globe.(2)
Scholars of currently democratizing regions will also find, however, that the Latin American field has not followed with as compelling a framework for studying politics after regime change. In shifting its post-transition focus to the subject of democratic consolidation the field has recognized the importance of understanding whether and how newly democratic regimes can become institutionalized, but it has yet to produce a successful theoretical model to explain their relative capacities to do so. Recent attempts to exploit more fully the explanatory potential of the transitions from authoritarian rule have yielded sophisticated accounts of the comparative stability and possibilities for reform in postauthoritarian political orders. In that they at best only partially illuminate the dilemmas of democratic consolidation, however, they also reveal the exhaustion of this approach.(3) Paradoxically, studies focused more explicitly on whether democratic regimes will survive and how to break the cycle of military intervention have failed to an even greater extent to provide a convincing explanation for why, even after rotations of office and partial economic recovery, many of the region's democracies barely manage to limp along in an unconsolidated state.(4)
One reason for this explanatory gap may be that the literature of democratic consolidation in Latin America has attempted to assess the future without paying sufficient attention to the influence of Latin America's recent past on the current organization of political interests and power. As Karen Remmer laments in Military Rule in Latin America, "Scholars moved from the study of democratic breakdown to the study of democratic transitions without pausing to analyze the authoritarian phase that came in between" (p. 24).(5) In the absence of such analysis, scholars most often assume either that a series of changes in political culture propitious for democratic consolidation occurred during this period or that the agenda of democratic consolidation today is simply to correct the institutional deficiencies that led to the breakdown of democracy more than two decades ago. Hence, much of the field has not only underestimated the challenge of democratic consolidation but also has failed to appreciate how this challenge has been shaped. In particular, they do not consider how the programs and policies of authoritarian regimes worked to dismantle or restructure the informal networks and formal institutions of political representation that had buttressed their democratic predecessors for decades. To the extent that military regimes altered the societal bases for political association and participation, the relationship of political parties to their constitutents, the networks of mediation through which states organize the consent of their societies, and in some cases even the institutional framework for political competition, their political legacies influence heavily the prospects for democratic consolidation and hence need to be brought into sharper focus.
The purpose of this essay is to explore the impact of the recent authoritarian past on political representation and the prospects for democracy racy in Latin America today. The essay proceeds as follows: first, it questions the prevailing wisdom of the transition and consolidation studies under review-that political culture has become more solidly democratic within all the former "bureaucratic-authoritarian" countries, that electoral reform and constitutional engineering can generally consolidate weak democracies, and that electoral realignment has followed directly from structural changes in the electorate and is a wholly positive development. Next it attempts to provide a framework for understanding when authoritarian rule provoked change and when it preserved continuity in the cultures and institutions of political competition and representation of the different countries where it prevailed. Drawing upon those works under review that take the field's first serious steps toward examining the authoritarian period, I suggest that the fate of clientelistic and corporatist networks of mediation between state and society prevailing at the onset of authoritarian regimes, as well as of those constructed upon the representative base of programmatic political parties - that is, whether these networks were altered, preserved, or destroyed - followed from the economic policies and political strategies pursued by authoritarian regimes. The essay concludes with the suggestion that the design and strength of representative institutions and networks that emerged from the dictatorships are molded but not forever fixed by authoritarian policies. Rather, the profound economic changes under way in many newly redemocratized countries in South America and the ways in which political parties and social groups respond to them will contribute to an ongoing reformulation of networks of political representation and hence the future of democracy on the continent.
The militaries that overthrew elected governments in Brazil in 1964, in Argentina in 1966 and again in 1976, and in Chile and Uruguay in 1973 came to power with bold projects of transformation.(6) They established authoritarian regimes without limit of tenure as vehicles for restructuring fundamentally the economic and political organization of their states and societies. Military governors followed up their initial, ruthless steps to obliterate the political Left and roll back decades of labor gains with ambitious, if often ill conceived projects to transform political institutions and create new patterns of political association, participation, and representation. Their ambitions for political change put distance between themselves and the politicians who had supported their takeovers.
The transformative impact of military projects was less than their architects had anticipated. With the exceptions of the achievement of spectacular economic growth rates by the Brazilian regime(7) and the control of public expenditure and restructuring of patterns of ownership, regulation, and foreign trade by the Chilean regime, these regimes by and large did not solve the economic problems that they inherited (stagnation, unemployment, dependency, inequality), as Manuel Antonio Garreton has argued in The Chilean Political Process (p. 108). Indeed, a few, such as the Argentine military regime that took power in 1976, led their nations toward financial ruin. The military regimes of South America made even less progress toward achieving their vaguer, somewhat quixotic, political ambitions. Some did manage to set back popular organization for several decades, but the larger political projects of these military regimes failed dramatically - regardless of the degree of control they retained over the process of regime transition.(8) Unlike the Argentine military, which retreated to the barracks ignominiously after its debacle in the 1982 South Atlantic war, the Brazilian military dictated the pace of its abdication of power. Yet the Brazilian military was arguably little more successful in restricting labor rights and rendering traditional politicians irrelevant after its departure from government than were the Argentine armed forces in eliminating the Peronists. Throughout the Southern Cone of Latin America, the populists and socialists whom the military regimes had hoped to banish from the political scene survived military rule and resurfaced with significant constituencies.
These "failures" nothwithstanding, no serious scholar of Latin American politics is entirely dismissive of the period of military rule. As Garreton argues, the failure of the historical projects of these military regimes "does not mean that the societies involved have not suffered changes and transformations. Nor does the transition toward democratic regimes imply that there is nothing new under the sun or that everything picks up where it left off before the dictatorship" (p. 108). Nonetheless, very few scholars actually credit military programs and policies with moving society in new directions. Most instead take the approach that even if these military regimes failed to accomplish their ends, time and the opposition movements organized in response to their policies may in any event have transformed their societies, usually in ways not intended by the regimes.
This general view has given rise to a series of optimistic assumptions - about political culture in general and about specific countries - that runs throughout the literature on Latin American democratization. Both the transitions and consolidation literatures, and much of the work under review here in particular, do not believe that military rule dismantled the economic, social, political, and cultural pillars of competitive politics in the region. Scholars across conceptual frameworks, however, do expect that the prospects for democracy were strengthened by other changes in political culture. Most significantly, they expect that a declining propensity among civilians to support military intervention in politics can counter a trend toward the militarization of political life,(9) and they assume that a strengthened commitment to, and willingness to sacrifice for, liberal democracy on the part of those groups who must bear the cost of adjustment will allow governments to manage economic crisis better than in the past.(10)
Within this general perspective, scholars assume different degrees and directions of political change in the various countries that recently emerged from military rule. Where democracy was previously deeply rooted and functioned well, as in Chile and Uruguay, regime change is widely expected to restore a less polarized, more conciliatory version of the precoup democratic order. By contrast, where it was never fully inclusive or well established and where it periodically malfunctioned, observers anticipate more change as a result of authoritarian rule. Most scholarship on Peru, notorious as one of the region's weakest democracies, highlights enormous change in the Peruvian state and society since the military coup of 1968; for the most part, however, it glosses over the threats to democracy posed by the failures of the military to eliminate landlessness and to achieve national integration.(11) Similarly, most students of Argentina cautiously hope that the civilian elite may finally have broken off its romance with the military, that Peronist unionists may finally have traded in their hubris for humility, and that mass praetorianism is a thing of the past. Perhaps nowhere has change been heralded more than in Brazil, the Latin American democracy threatened not by political polarization but by excessive elite domination and gross inequality (12). There, the prospects for democratic consolidation were allegedly improved structurally by economic and demographic change, invigorated by the growth of free unions and new social movements in a sphere that had autonomy from the state, and bolstered by the rise of new political parties.
Beyond this broad consensus, different conceptual frameworks emphasizing different manifestations of change or continuity from pre- to postauthoritarian regimes suggest different propositions about the opportunities and problems of democratic consolidation. The transitions literature holds that civil societies that struggled against military dictatorships have the potential to weaken the cultural foundations of authoritarianism and serve as a genuine basis for democracy. One important strand of the literature on democratic consolidation contends that the new consensus for democracy can be strengthened and political instability reduced by electoral and institutional reforms that make democratic government more workable and less vulnerable to the petty squabbles of self-interested politicians. And others are hopeful that the destructive confrontations of the past will not be repeated, because the new political generations that came of age during military rule were able to escape the socioeconomic circumstances and political memories that perpetuated the crusty cleavages of preauthoritarian politics. These propositions and their underlying assumptions are sufficiently important to scholars of Latin America and comparative regime change more generally to warrant closer examination.
Perhaps the most important and universally accepted tenet of the literature on regime change in Latin America is that the prolonged episode of military rule has decidedly (if only for an indeterminate period) altered political culture in ways that are particularly propitious for the consolidation of democracy. As Remmer has put it: "Recent authoritarian experiences have generated a new enthusiasm for democratic governance, a positive evaluation of competitive electoral processes, and a willingness to compromise and moderate demands in the interest of avoiding relapses into authoritarianism" (p. 201). In their introduction to Democracy in Developing Countries: Latin America, Diamond and Linz similarly identify as "one of the most important causes for optimism about the future of democracy in these countries" the "`revalorization' of democracy and moderation of political behavior" on the part of the publics, politicians, and especially former leftists of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. These lessons, the authors contend, were learned through the bitter experiences of democratic breakdown and repressive, bureaucratic-authoritarian rule (p. 12), a claim that echoes throughout the country studies.(13)
Especially where states were strong and societies weak, according to a subset of the democratization literature, the new political associations and social movements of civil society that emerged to oppose centralizing dictatorships can play an important role in democratization in the future. They can inspire popular political participation and serve as a check on the perpetual ambitions of strong states to expand and concentrate their already considerable authority.(14) In this genre, Democratizing Brazil welcomes the development of new horizontal solidarities in civil society as one of the most radical and promising manifestations of change set in motion in Brazil during the authoritarian period of the 1970s. Alfred Stepan's succinct introduction and the contributions by Della Cava, Mainwaring, Alvarez, and Keck laud the clergy and lay workers of the Catholic church, grass-roots popular organizations, autonomous women's movements, and new labor unions for challenging a corporatist state historically adept at quelling social protest. These essays make a double claim. First, civil society emboldened the opponents of dictatorship over the course of a decade of political …