In this pioneering study of democratization in Argentina, Leslie Anderson challenges Robert Putnam’s thesis that democracy requires high levels of social capital. She demonstrates in Democratization by Institutions that formal institutions (e.g., the executive, the legislature, the courts) can serve not only as operational parts within democracy but as the driving force toward democracy.
As Anderson astutely observes, the American founders debated the merits of the institutions they were creating. Examining how, and how well, Argentina’s American-style institutional structure functions, she considers the advantages and risks of the separation of powers, checks and balances, legislative policymaking, and strong presidential power. During the democratic transition, the Argentinian state has used institutions to address immediate policy challenges in ways responsive to citizens and thereby to provide a supportive environment in which social capital can develop.
By highlighting the role that institutions can play in leading a nation out of authoritarianism, even when social capital is low, Anderson begins a new conversation about the possibilities of democratization. Democratization by Institutions has much to say not only to Latin Americanists and scholars of democratization but also to those interested in the U.S. constitutional structure and its application in other parts of the world.
“Anderson provides fascinating and useful comparisons to the role of the president in the United States and introduces a number of ideas from political theory to help explain the power and breadth of the role of the executive in a presidential system. Argentina is an important and fascinating case in democratization, and much of the empirical evidence presented here is novel and interesting.”
––Kirk Bowman, Georgia Tech University
“This is an original, well-researched book that provides new information on democratization. This is quite an achievement given the complexity and nuances of Anderson’s findings about how democratic institutions can both help and hinder democratization.”
––Mary Corcoran, University of Michigan