Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy

By John A. Booth | Go to book overview

5
SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND CIVIL SOCIETY

Costa Rica's great national myth holds in part that its democracy has roots in a social structure with minimal class divisions and a homogeneous population and culture. As the Biesanzes have noted, this argument sometimes assumes amusing dimensions: "Despite the great value that Costa Ricans place upon democracy, equality, and tolerance, their society manifests inequalities of many types. Although many Ticos begin any commentary about social stratification by denying that there are classes in their country, they [then] immediately insist that all Costa Ricans are of the middle class."1

Costa Rica is considerably less homogeneous and egalitarian than its myth suggests. This has had important implications for the nation's organizational life, especially during the severe recession of the 1980s. This chapter explores Costa Rica's social and economic divisions and some of the nation's main institutions, interest sectors, and groups.


Social Structure and Cleavages

Driven by powerful modernizing forces, Costa Rican social structure has changed at an ever accelerating pace since independence (Chapter 3). With the advent of coffee exporting in the mid-nineteenth century, the predominantly rural, agrarian society began to evolve quickly. The population boomed from only 60,000 in 1821 to an estimated 3.7 million projected for 1998.2 Coffee's expansion spread people throughout most of the cultivable national territory by the mid-twentieth century. Coffee also spurred railroad construction, which led to the banana industry, new racial and ethnic groups, and new economic classes and organiza

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Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Acronyms xvii
  • Preface xxi
  • 1 - Latin American Democracy and Costa Rica 1
  • Notes 12
  • 2 - Contemporary Costa Rica In Central America 17
  • Notes 30
  • 3 - The Historical Development of Costa Rican Democracy 32
  • Notes 53
  • 4 - The Political Framework of Democracy 56
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Social Structure and Civil Society 82
  • Notes 100
  • 6 - Political Participation 103
  • Notes 125
  • 7 - Political Culture 129
  • Notes 151
  • 8 - Political Economy in Transition 154
  • Notes 174
  • 9 - Costa Rica in the World 177
  • Conclusions 192
  • 10 - Analysi5 and Conclusions: Can Democracy Survive? 195
  • Notes 208
  • Appendix 211
  • Index 219
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