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Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801851582
ISBN-10: 0801851580
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Editorial Reviews

Review

An absolutely major work that represents probably the most significant contribution to the burgeoning literature on democratization over the past decade and the most ambitious effort to move the debate beyond the seminal work on transition, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Prospects for Democracy by Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead (1986), by considering the problem of democratization in light of the dramatic regime changes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

(Gerardo L. Munck Slavic Review)

This is an important volume by two major scholars on a central topic―one of broad interest to people in comparative politics, to those interested in democracy, and to regional specialists on Southern Latin America and on Central and Eastern Europe. The book will unquestionably be a major contribution to the literature on constructing democratic governance.

(Abraham F. Lowenthal University of Southern California)

About the Author

Juan J. Linz is Sterling Professor of Political and Social Science at Yale University. Alfred Stepan, the first rector and president of the Central European University, is Gladstone Professor of Government and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (August 8, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801851580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801851582
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #604,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew P. Arsenault on August 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the title suggests, Linz and Stepan examine democratic transition and consolidation. Linz and Stepan argue that a democratic transition is completed when the relevant actors agree on the "the rules of the game." These rules include those regarding elected government: when and how the government is formed through free and fair elections, when and how the government has de facto authority to create new policies, and when the branches of government no longer have to share power with other bodies. When the government abides by the rules developed, Linz and Stepan would argue that it has become a democracy. Consolidation is achieved when the democratic system is viewed as "the only game in town," and the majority of the public subscribes to those institutions. Additionally, Linz and Stepan see a consolidated democracy as not simply a regime, but rather a system of interaction parts. These parts include civil society, political society, rule of law, bureaucracy, and an institutionalization of economic society.

The authors use a number of explanatory variables when examining democratic transition and consolidation. These variables are divided into three categories. The first, macrovariables, include stateness, and prior regime type. The second, actor variables, includes the leadership base of the prior regime type, and who initiates and controls oppositions. Lastly, context variables include international influences, the political economy of legitimacy, and the constitution-making environment.

Linz and Stepan argue that "democracy requires statehood." Without a state' ability to use coercive force, tax, and implement a judicial system, the five arenas of a consolidated democracy will not be achieved.
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Format: Paperback
When reading this book, two concerns immediately struck me. First, on what were Linz and Stepan basing their analysis? They provide definitions about consolidated democracy, types of authoritarian regimes, and the effects of various types of transitions, but it's not clear from what evidence they draw their conclusions. In fact, they seem to be pulling some of their conclusions out of thin air. This might be OK for one or two definitions, but it's hard to follow a book that ranges so wide and far without being able to see or follow their logic.

Second, the book focuses on Europe and South America. I presume those are the authors' areas of expertise. However, this focus is both too wide and too limited. It's too wide in the sense that the regions aren't similar so comparisons are sometimes strained too far. After all, the totalitarian cases come primarily from one region (Europe) while the military juntas from another (South America). The case selection is too narrow in that there are plenty of cases outside these regions which undermine the authors' theories (such as China and Vietnam).

Overall, this is yet another example of how unfocused analysis leads to unfocused answers. There are some useful portions of the book worth skimming through, and I like the use of charts to summarize the theories. This might be worth skimming through to get ideas for future research, but read it with skepticism and a questioning mind.
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Format: Paperback
I appreciated the fast delivery time, as well as the detailed description given of this title on this website. Used copies of books (especially those relating to political science) provide needed insight brand-new copies are not able to offer.
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Having read this book, I understand why Linz has gained international reputation. (As an example, he was made honorary doctor at The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Oslo, Norway, 2000.) This book is written in an engaging way, with lots of interesting information. Its clear structure and quite simple language also makes it easy to read. Those believing that political science is "heavy, dry and dull" will probably change their minds if they read "Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation". Personally, I found the chapters on South America very enlightening. The book gives information about how citizens view "democracy" in the respective countries, and the challenges each country faces in terms of democratic transition and consolidation. I agree with the first reviewer that this book is a must-have for all interested in the countries in question or political science in general. (Having just finished my dissertation in political science, I've read my share of less interesting and poorly written works!)
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Format: Hardcover
This is the book for everyone looking for the ultimate answer to the questions regarding democratic transitions in the east as well as in the west. Although somewhat fuzzy and unclear in the theoretical outline it does offer some serious answers as well as questions on the democratization waves in former communist countries and dictatorships all over the planet. This is a must for all political scientists as well as those with inclination towards contemporary political subjects. This will be a standard opus on this subject.
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