Defusing Democracy

Central Bank Autonomy and the Transition from Authoritarian Rule
Delia M. Boylan
A substantive focus on transitions to democracy combined with an analytical approach rooted in the political economy of institutions


Many of today's new democracies are constrained by institutional forms designed by previous authoritarian rulers. In this timely and provocative study, Delia M. Boylan traces the emergence of these vestigial governance structures to strategic behavior by outgoing elites seeking to protect their interests from the vicissitudes of democratic rule.

One important outgrowth of this political insulation strategy—and the empirical centerpiece of Boylan's analysis—is the existence of new, highly independent central banks in countries throughout the developing world. This represents a striking transformation, for not only does central bank autonomy remove a key aspect of economic decision making from democratic control; in practice it has also kept many of the would-be expansionist governments that hold power today from overturning the neoliberal policies favored by authoritarian predecessors.

To illustrate these points, Defusing Democracy takes a fresh look at two transitional polities in Latin America—Chile and Mexico—where variation in the proximity of the democratic "threat" correspondingly yielded different levels of central bank autonomy.

Boylan concludes by extending her analysis to institutional contexts beyond Latin America and to insulation strategies other than central bank autonomy. Defusing Democracy will be of interest to anyone—political scientists, economists, and policymakers alike—concerned about the genesis and consolidation of democracy around the globe.

Delia M. Boylan is Assistant Professor, Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.

Praise / Awards

  • "Boylan's Defusing Democracy addresses an important question in comparative politics: to what extent do authoritarians tie their successor's hands during the transition to democracy? In a comparative study of Mexico and Chile's transition, she argues that the more time an authoritarian government has to manage the transition, the more considered and secure will be its most preferred and vulnerable elements. Chile's slow transition allowed the regime to institutionalize many of its positions, while Mexico's regime did not have that luxury."
    —Barry Weingast, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University
  • "Delia Boylan offers a new theoretical perspective on transitions to democracy in an analysis that is beautifully written, clearly argued, and rich in substantive detail. A welcome and potentially far-reaching contribution to the comparative study of political institutions."
    —Terry Moe, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University
  • ". . . a valuable contribution to the economic and financial history of Latin America."
    —Sylvia Maxfield, Simmons School of Management, International History Review, March 2003

Look Inside

Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 312pp.
  • 7 drawings, 13 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11214-2

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.

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