Los Partidos Políticos Latinoamericanos

By Lalander, Rickard | Ibero-americana, July 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Los Partidos Políticos Latinoamericanos


Lalander, Rickard, Ibero-americana


Alfredo Ramos Jiménez, Los partídos políticos latinoamericanos. Caracas: Centra de Investigación de Política Comparada, Universidad de Los Andes. 2002.

During the 1990's, the Latin American countries experienced broad and far-reaching changes in their political systems, including ruptures within the party systems themselves. In some, populist traditions of government have reappeared with a palpable and direct relationship between a charismatic leader and the popular masses, by this means avoiding the traditional parliamentary process and also challenging the traditional and strong importance of the political parties in a democratic setting.

In 1995, Ecuadorian-Venezuelan political scientist Alfredo Ramos Jiménez published Los partidos polilicos en las democracias latinoamericanas, in which he exposes his visions and interpretations of distinct political parties and party systems in a democratic context, a recurrent topic in the books by this author. Six years later he presents Los partidos políticos latinoamericanos, emphasizing the same topic, i.e., political parties and party systems as crucial to the level and functioning of democracy. However, the new publication is characterized by a more advanced theoretical approach and a different methodological structure. Ramos Jiménez successfully provides a presentation with illustrative empirical examples from the Latin American countries, rendering the reader able to comprehend the particularities of the different party systems as well as the distinctions between the different political parties of the continent.

He does not, however, lock himself up in one school of thought. Instead, he uses both (predominating) liberal-pluralist and neo-Marxist approaches. He analyzes and interprets classical theorists, like Giovanni Sartori, Robert Dahl, Howard Wiarda and Alain Touraine. Likewise he supports his argumentation on the pioneering works on Latin American party systems with classical works by Robert Alexander, Stein Rokkan, Seymour Lipset, Guillermo O'Donnell, Phillippe Schmitter, Lawrence Whitehead, Dieter Nohlen, Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully. The author also refers to more recent studies of specialists on the political developments in Latin America, such as Manuel Alcántara, René Antonio Mayorga, Manuel Garretón, Edelberto Torres-Rivas and a large number of other scholars, as well as to his own academic production between 1985 and 2001.

In the first part of the book, on social cleavages and political parties, the author takes off from the modern Latin American debate on democracy, social conflicts and political parties, to eventually reach deeper into the classical definitions. He employs a historical conflictive perspective in the theoretical presentation of the democratic functions of the political parties and he uses a systematic-genealogical technique for the analysis of the birth and development of distinct political parties, successfully reaching beyond the traditional Left-Right continuum. As for the project level, Ramos Jiménez makes distinctions between ideological, strategic, tactical, pragmatic and official parties, whereas the organization level represents the party models, like the party of notables, of militants, the mass party, the electoral party and the party of cadres.

The second part of the book, on political families and party systems, is more empirical and it benefits from the clarity of the theoretical models as presented in the first part of the book. Here, the author explores the ideas of Sartori on distinct party systems and the decisive differences between two-partyism and multi-partyism. Likewise, he focuses the degree of institutionalization of a party, and brings the argumentation to a Latin American context. …

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