Democratic Culture and Governance is a collection of essays by prominent Latin American social scientists whom unesco brought together to discuss issues of democracy at a conference held in Montevideo in 1990. The organization of this conference in Latin America was a recognition of the region’s significance in the debate about the theory and practice of democratization and democratic governance. The contributors include Manuel A. Garretón, François Bourricaud, Torcuato Di Telia, Norbert Lechner, Michel Maffesoli, Helio Jaguaribe, Mario Dos Santos, Osvaldo Sunkel, Ariel Davrieux, Enrique Leff, Dante Caputo, Jorge Sabato, Raúl Bernal-Meza, and Luis Albala-Bertrand.
The articles by these prominent Latin Americanists address three main topics: transition processes; economic conditions and the dilemmas of democratic governance; and democratization in the context of international restructuring. The collection conveys a sense of some of the most troubling issues affecting democracy in Latin America, and particularly how prominent social scientists view these problems. The articles, however, lack depth. They are short pieces that look more like conference commentaries than carefully thought out scholarly articles. In this sense, the book is useful as a documentation of the relevant issues discussed at the Montevideo conference, but not as a long-lasting academic contribution to the understanding of democratization processes in Latin America.
Social Democracy in Latin America should be welcomed by students of both comparative politics and social democracy. Outstanding social scientists from Latin America and Europe provide informative and insightful analyses of the relationship between European and Latin American social democracy. The essays fall into either of two categories: analysis of the social democratic experience in Europe and its relevance for Latin America; or the concrete experiences, possibilities, and limitations of social democracy in Latin America. The contributors to the book are Tilman Evers, Kenneth Hermele, Paul Cammack, Manuel Alcántara Sáez, Pablo González Casanova, Marcelo Cavarozzi, Alex Fernández Jilberto, Luis Gómez Calcaño, Julio Cotier, Agustín Cueva, Jaime Tamayo, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Alain Touraine.
The articles by Evers, Hermele, Cammack, and Alcántara Sáez address two main topics: the social democratic experience in Germany, Sweden, England, and Spain; and the nature of the relationship between the respective European social democratic governments and parties and their Latin American counterparts. A major theme is whether economic or political motivations accounted for European social democrats’ increasing interest in Latin America. The chapters concentrating on Latin America address general themes, such as the Left in South America as treated by Cavarozzi; or country studies, including Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Central America, and Mexico.
The two final chapters raise some of the hard questions about the challenges of social democracy in Latin America. Cardoso examines the tension between the roles of the market and the state in the allocation of resources and the redistribution of income. In Latin America, under the present conditions of external debt and inflation, the trend has been to privatize. But while privatization in great proportion is, according to Cardoso, unacceptable, social democrats must carefully evaluate how Latin American economies can open up. The final essay, by Touraine, discusses social democracy as a political project, the various meanings social democracy has received in Latin America, and the possible ways out of the present situation, at a time when room for positive solutions is narrow. Overall, the essays provide a rich depth of information and a critical outlook on the social democratic experiences in Europe and Latin America.