Mechanisms matter

Nancy Bermeo, Deborah J. Yashar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


This collection has taken us on a long intellectual journey across centuries and continents. As we bring it to a close, it is helpful to recall what motivated the voyage in the first place, what we learned along the way, and what remains to be seen. These three tasks structure this brief conclusion. We begin by highlighting the puzzle behind our project and the basic elements of our argument. We then move on to point to some of the key lessons from our case studies. We conclude by mapping the boundaries of our endeavor and the research agenda emerging from the ground not covered. THE MOTIVATION This project was motivated by the puzzle of democracies that emerge against the odds. We wondered how countries lacking the class structures commonly associated with democratization managed to both transit away from authoritarianism and then maintain democracy afterward. We also wondered why countries at middle ranges of development sometimes embraced democracy and sometimes embraced dictatorship. What sorts of conditions and actors are essential to democratization? More specifically, what sorts of civilian collectivities promote and sustain democratic regime change, and how do these collectivities emerge? The answers we proposed derived from our familiarity with a wide range of unlikely cases where movements and parties proved decisive. Though the cases that instructed us emerged throughout the decades following World War II, an overview of three should suffice for illustration. In each, movements and parties were essential to successfully coordinating and competing in democratic transitions. We knew, for example, that Latin America's longest-lasting democracy was founded in Costa Rica as early as 1948–1949, despite the fact that entrenched agro-export elites, low levels of development, political polarization, and a history of authoritarian rule throughout Central America made success unlikely. The outcome, which followed on the heels of a civil war initially waged against democratic, political and social reformers, cannot be reduced to material conditions alone. Although class and redistributive concerns became a critical part of political struggles, political parties and movements (with a prior history of civil and political organizing) proved decisive in the subsequent bargaining, founding, and endurance of the new democracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationParties, Movements, and Democracy in the Developing World
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781316661581
ISBN (Print)9781107156791
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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