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Reflections on Uneven Democracies

, 432 pages

19 line drawings

August 2014



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Reflections on Uneven Democracies

The Legacy of Guillermo O'Donnell

The third wave of democratization produced a wealth of enduring social science. Beginning in the 1970s, it prompted scholars to develop important theories on authoritarian breakdowns and transitions to democracy. No one in the field was more influential than Guillermo O’Donnell (1936–2011), whose pathbreaking work shaped the scholarship of generations of social scientists.

Reflections on Uneven Democracies honors the legacy of O’Donnell’s research by advancing debates related to his work on democracy. Drawing together a veritable Who’s Who of eminent scholars—including two of O’Donnell’s closest collaborators, Philippe Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead—the volume examines issues related to democratic breakdowns and stability, the nature and quality of new democracies, institutional strength, the rule of law, and delegative democracy.

This reexamination of some of the most influential arguments about democracy of the past forty years leads to original approaches and insights for a new era of democracy studies. Students of democracy and institutional performance, both Latin Americanists and comparativists more generally, will find this essential reading.

Daniel Brinks is an associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of The Judicial Response to Police Killings in Latin America: Inequality and the Rule of Law. Marcelo Leiras is an assistant professor of political science and international relations at Universidad de San Andrés in Argentina, where he is also director of the Master of Public Administration and Policy program. Scott Mainwaring is the Eugene and Helen Conley Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He is the coauthor of Democracies and Dictatorships in Latin America: Emergence, Survival, and Fall.

" Reflections on Uneven Democracies is a highly effective testament to the remarkable intellectual career and influence of Guillermo O’Donnell, unquestionably the dominant figure in the study of Latin American politics since the early 1970s. What sets this book apart is its systematic effort to explore O’Donnell’s impact on subsequent scholarship, assess the current state of the field, and break new conceptual, theoretical, and empirical ground in democracy studies. A must-read for all scholars engaged in the comparative study of democracy, this book will reshape the research frontier for many years to come."

"This is a most fitting tribute to one of the towering figures in comparative politics of the past half century. The wide variety of topics addressed, the rigor of analysis, and the quality of the contributors reflect the breadth and depth of the scholarship of Guillermo O’Donnell and the impact of his teaching."

"This volume is a must-read for all who are concerned with development and Latin American political economy. It brings together two generations of leading international scholars who probe themes such as regime dynamics and stability, party politics and institutions, and the quality of democratic governance. The pieces build to a contribution that is reminiscent of O’Donnell himself: brilliant, quirky, important."

"A very impressive work... Absolutely essential for scholars and students of Latin America and highly recommended generally."

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