- Series: Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics
- Paperback: 238 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (August 13, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521805112
- ISBN-13: 978-0521805117
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
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- #3331 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Specific Topics > Political Economy
- #5589 in Books > Business & Money > Economics > Economic Conditions
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Mandates and Democracy: Neoliberalism by Surprise in Latin America (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics)
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"This methodologically sophisticated volume is an outstanding contribution to understanding mandate switching, and to theory building on the electoral and policymaking connection. It is well rooted in the contemporary literature on representation, but also in a deep understanding of the philosophical roots of mandate theories in the work of Edmund Burke, James Madison, and John Stuart Mill." Latin American Research Review
"Mandates and Democracy is a useful book for those concerned with Latin American democratic institutions and political behavior. Stokes's careful use of formal methodology combined with gestaltlich understanding of particular elections is a model that graduate and advanced undergraduate students would do well to emulate." Journal of Politics
"Stokes's work is impressive for its all-too-rare combination of posing questions inspired by normative theory...Few scholars have a comparable vision and set of tools with which to address the implications for democracy when citizens are deprived of the opportunity to express themselves on the political alternatives available to them. With Mandates and Democracy...Stokes cements her position as one of the leading contemporary scholars of comparative democracy." Political Science Quarterly
"...nuanced and sophisticated.... Stokes leads scholars toward the analysis of crucial and ideational phenomena and thus breaks new ground for comparative politics." Perspectives on Politics
"This exceedingly timely volume presents solid scholarship and thus is broadly recommended." Choice
"Stokes is thus able to classify election campaigns as either efficiency-oriented, that is, in favor of market reforms, or welfare-oriented, that is, against them." Comparative Politics, Andrew Roberts, The Quality of Politics _
Does it matter when politicians ignore the promises they made and the preferences of their constituents? If politicians want to be reelected or see their party reelected at the end of their term, why would they impose unpopular policies? Susan Stokes explores these questions by developing a model of policy switches and then testing it with statistical and qualitative data from Latin American elections over the last two decades. She concludes that politicians may change policies because unpopular policies are best for constituents and hence also will best serve their own political ambitions.
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Stokes takes into account forty-two presidential elections in Latin America from 1982 to 1995 and focuses her analysis on the twelve cases where a dramatic change of policy took place. She uses statistical tools to test different hypotheses about the main determinants of policy switches. Her most surprising conclusion is that "governments that want nothing more than to promote the welfare of their constituents may sometimes not only renege on campaign pronouncements, they may in fact dissimulate in campaigns and then switch to unpopular policies" (p. 5). By defining political representation as the behavior of politicians aiming to maximize the welfare of their constituents, Stokes challenges scholars that explain policy switches as the attempt of rent-seekers to take advantage of the asymmetry of information between the voters (principal) and the office holders (agents). This latter approach would support the skeptical view of market-oriented reforms as policies that favor the interests of the rich. But she argues that "neoliberalism by surprise" is the result of a dissimulation- strategy that aims to solve the problem of conflicting beliefs between politicians and voters. What she calls "efficiency-oriented" policies (i.e. liberalization) are unpopular for voters because they do not have enough information about the benefits of such policies. Thus, politicians propose "security-oriented" policies (i.e. protectionist) to get into office and then switch.
The central argument of this book is that voters care about economic performance and not too much about policies. It stresses the role of beliefs and uncertainty in shaping politicians and voters behavior. For instance, the author claims that "politicians' choices of economic policy are shaped by ideology and technical beliefs, as well as by the desire to win votes" (p. 56). Taking into account the conflicting beliefs of politicians and voters, her theoretical discussion about the tensions between the idea of popular mandates and the independence of representatives does not exclude the possibility of a government that decides to violate mandates to govern well because has more knowledge and information than its constituents, and expects that at the end of the day they will adjudicate according to the economic outcomes. It implies that the electorate hardly knows which might be the appropriate policies due to its lack of information about the real situation of the economy and the actual effect of a specific set of policies.
The book contains valuable information about citizens' preferences, candidates' promises, and governments' performance. It is an analytic effort based on impressive data collection. The first chapter is an introduction to the research question. Chapter two describes the Latin American cases of consistent politicians, as well as the cases of vague campaigns and policy switches. The third chapter summarizes the plausible explanations of early policy switches. Chapter four analyses the impact of political parties on representative democracy. In chapter five the author explains why in most of the cases citizens support and reward the violation of mandates. Stokes concludes that politicians who switch to "unpopular" policies may be reelected, as long as outcomes are satisfactorily beneficial, as in the cases of Menem in Argentina and Fujimori in Peru, because voters will "make general ex post judgments about how incumbents have performed over a range of actions and policies" (p. 153). In chapter six, she examines in detail the principles of unconstrained representatives and why campaign pronouncements are still important for both politicians and voters. The final chapter is a summary of the central findings about causes and implications of mandate violation: under certain conditions, such as competitive elections and young political parties, "campaign messages will sometimes fail to predict policy in any democracy" (p. 188), and voters will not necessarily punished policy switchers because they will pay more attention to policy outcomes. Stokes also proposes important questions for further research: How politicians' arguments shape voters' opinions and beliefs? And, how to explain the origin and evolution of politicians' beliefs and ideology?
A shortcoming of this book is that starts with a sample of 42 cases and ends up analyzing only 3 cases. In fact, as Stokes recognizes, policy switches are anomalies (29 percent of the cases of the sample) while consistency is the rule (64 percent). If it is true that efficiency-oriented policies were unpopular, then another interesting research question is why in 17 cases (40 percent of the sample) the pro-market reforms were a successful campaign offer. Thus, the initial puzzle of "neoliberalism by surprise" should be replaced by the more accurate phrase of "neoliberalism by consent". From a different perspective, if security-oriented policies were inappropriate for voters' welfare and for the prospects of politicians' reelection, then why in 10 cases (24 percent) did politicians decide to obey the popular mandate?
This is definitively an interesting book that will be useful for graduate students who are trying to obtain a better understanding of the broad set of explanatory arguments about the economic policies implemented in Latin America during the 1980s and 1990s. It is also a good example of how to combine theory and statistics, in a comparative perspective, to shed light on a relevant question.