Assessing the Course of Political Change and Democratization in Contemporary Latin America

Panel Code
Closed Panel
In Person

The processes of political change and democratization, as various scholars have remarked, are always open-ended and contain some degree of uncertainty . This means that their evaluation must be constantly renewed. This is all the more evident if one takes into account that the institutional, economic and social challenges of most Latin American countries have worsened in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a consequence, democratization has been interrupted in some cases. However, the type of processes and phenomena observed display different characteristics from those witnessed in other stages of Latin America's political history. For example, some authors have insisted that authoritarian reversals and the irruption of contemporary illiberal regimes do not occur mainly through coups d'état or the instrumentation of violence, but rather gradually and through elections. In this context, the phenomenon of the new populisms has attracted particular attention. However, the impact of populisms on democratization is not a concluded debate, since each tradition of political thought -including the substantive conception of democracy, the liberal conception of democracy, and Marxism- sustains arguments that may be contrasting. The objective of this panel is to reflect on the direction and characteristics of political change in Latin America in the contemporary scene through the analysis of phenomena that impact democratization from diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives. Some of the topics covered in this panel are: analysis of the different dimensions of the quality of democracy in Latin America; consolidation and emergence of hybrid regimes; new authoritarian setbacks; the weakening of conventional political parties in polarized societies; political participation, social movements and elections in Latin America; impact of populisms on the democratization process; new discussions in the debate between procedural and substantive conceptions of democracy; differences between left-wing and right-wing populisms in Latin America; differences between contemporary populisms and 20th century populisms in Latin America; and case studies on contemporary electoral processes in Latin America.