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Volume 65 / Social Sciences


BRIAN TURNER, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, Randolph-Macon College

A FOCUS ON POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS characterizes much of the writing on the region. The rather striking recovery of institutional procedures in Argentina drew scholars' attention, as did the evolution of the Uruguayan political system at the 20th anniversary of the return to democracy, marked by the taking of office of that country's first left-wing government.

Most of the works on Argentina's institutions focus on the weakness of those institutions (for example, item #bi2008000143#). The diversity of electoral arrangements and the problems with representation caused by many of these arrangements are the focus of Calvo and Escolar (item #bi2008000183#), Democracia local (item #bi2008000179#), Escolar and Calcagno (item #bi2007000229#), Melo (item #bi2006001682#), and Tula (item #bi2008000194#). Studies of campaigns and elections include D'Adamo and García Beaudoux (item #bi2006002243#) on the impact of television "spots," and Seligson (item #bi2007002307#) on voting choice in the 1990s.

A number of works discuss the early success of the Kirchner government and the evolution of Peronism. Iazzetta (item #bi2007005108#) and Ollier (item #bi2007000230#) assess President Kirchner's notable ability to govern after winning the presidency with just 22 percent of the vote in 2003. Levitsky's study of the Peronist Party shows how flexibility is both its strength and its weakness (item #bi2009004717#). Cavarozzi notes the partial disarticulation of the party system (item #bi2008000145#).

Mustapic (item #bi2007003980#) and Ollier (item #bi2007000230#) take distinct positions on the problem of presidential instability. Mustapic allows that early resignation may be an informal institutional adaptation of presidentialism to the permanence of a democratic regime structure, while Ollier points to the problem of party factionalism as a cause of presidential crises. Broken Promises details the causes and results of the crisis of 2001 (item #bi2006001710#).

Scholars have turned to assessing the state of civil society and associational life in the wake of the crisis of 2001. Quintar sees promise for the democratization of society in the new forms of associational life (item #bi2006002455#). Bonner discusses how human rights groups have opened spaces that have permitted them to take advantage of the evolution of international law in favor of pursuing prosecutions from the "Dirty War" (item #bi2007000146#). Quiroga is less optimistic about the quality of civic engagement in Argentina (item #bi2007003099#), while Hinton (item #bi2006001713#) and Armony (item #bi2006001037#) see signs of "uncivil society" in those organizations that confront but are unable to articulate with state institutions, in part because those institutions are poorly designed to channel interests.

Works on Paraguay have also focused on institutional features, but the apparent lack of change leads analyses to depend less on political choice and more on deep-seated political cultural and structural explanations (items #bi2007000217#, #bi2009004721#, #bi2008000141#, #bi2007003436#, and #bi2007003437#). Publications thus far addressing the end of 61 years of rule by the Colorado Party have been journalistic, or recommendations for policy change.

Uruguayan scholars have turned their attention to deeper historical analysis of the roots of the victory of the Frente Amplio-Encuentro Progresista-Nueva Mayoría in 2004, and have arrived at a general consensus. Buquet (item #bi2006003880#), Garcé (item #bi2008000144#), Lanzaro (item #bi2007000081#), and Yaffé (item #bi2008000142#), and even Arocena (item #bi2007004179#) from a more partisan position, argue that pragmatism and political strategy made possible by the internal dynamics of factional competition within the left explain the victory. Rico also might agree, but from a more critical stance (item #bi2008000149#). Similar considerations are found in scholarship on Argentina, but with significantly different results.

Claramunt Abbate (item #bi2008000148#) and Veneziano (item #bi2008000150#) argue that decentralization in Montevideo has altered some patterns of popular political participation, but has not delinked participation from partisan politics or fundamentally reshaped state-civil society relations.

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