Contesting Liberal Citizenship: New Debates and Alternative Forms of Democracy and State Power in Latin America

[RG #117] Contesting Liberal Citizenship: New Debates and Alternative Forms of Democracy and State Power in Latin America

March 1 - August 31, 2009


Mario Sznaider (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Luis Roniger (Wake Forest University)

The goal of our research group is to examine the changing context of procedural, representative and liberal democracy in Latin America, analyze the contesting modes of democracy that have crystallized in the region, and evaluate their implications for a redefinition of citizenship models and alliances.

Latin America has long been a laboratory for comparative research. With its 20 independent polities, it provides a shared ground for systematic analysis into the resilience or breakdown of formal democracy against the background of contesting models of citizenship.

While in the days of the Cold War these models were relatively clear-cut and impacted on the region, generating the contrasting projects of reform and revolution, in the last two decades Latin America has witnessed both a renewal of democracy and the diversification of democratic experiments. The international presence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the election of an indigenous president in Bolivia and female presidents in Chile and Argentina, and recent policy decisions in Cuba, reflect the profound changes these countries have undergone, raising questions that are of far more than just regional interest.

Our research group brings together experts on various dimensions of citizenship in Latin America with a record in comparative research to reflect on the challenges affeting liberal democracies, as derived from the shift from corporatist to neo-liberal citizenship regimes; the increasing recognition of group rights and multiculturalism, evident with the potent rise of new indigenous movements; the emergence of participatory forms of anti-politics in situations of policy ineffectiveness and institutional collapse; the increasing use of plebiscitary democracy as a means of attaining political legitimacy; and the persistent challenge of mass citizen mobilization to existing forms of limited democracy.