(Re)constructing Political Society

Article excerpt

MISCELLANEOUS

Edited by Manuel Antonio Garreteon and Edward Newman

Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2001, ix, 319pp, US$31.95, ISBN 92-808-1068-5.

Acknowledged experts (most of them political sociologists from the region) offer yet another survey of the state of democracy in Latin America. The first part of the volume, 'Scenarios of democracy and transition,' covers an impressive array of cases (14 in total). The criterion used to group them is a four-fold typology, which differentiates transitions from other types of regime change. The highlight is the chapter on 'Reforms' by Laurence Whitehead, which combines rich empirical material with a novel theoretical approach as well as a useful methodological discussion on the use and limitations of paired comparisons. It is certainly useful to rethink the transformations in the region's political regimes and reserve the label 'transitions' for just one type of transformation while creating new types such as 'foundations' and 'reforms.' However, the lumping together of cases as dissimilar as Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela under the single label of 'crisis and regressions' is completely unwarranted.

The second part, 'Democracy and the (re)construction of political society,' offers some insightful contributions to major debates that loom large in Latin America's (democratic? …