In This Review

Sustainable Democracy
Sustainable Democracy
By Adam Przeworski
Cambridge University Press, 1995, 141 pp
The Consolidation of Democracy in Latin America
The Consolidation of Democracy in Latin America
Edited by Joseph S. Tulchin
Lynne Rienner, 1995, 176 pp

No one knows whether the new democracies in eastern and southern Europe and Latin America will sustain themselves. In the interim, they have certainly sustained a self-recruiting coterie of social scientists on a lavish conference circuit--usually at the expense of the MacArthur Foundation, which seems ever ready to fund such junkets. The result is usually a combination of low theory, high generalization, and turgid jargon.

Nevertheless, occasional insights occur, and these two books are among the more important recent additions to the literature. Adam Przeworski's is a brief synopsis of the collective wisdom of 20 leading "transitologists." While generally favoring market-oriented reform, they criticize "neoliberalism," warning that the danger to the new democratic regimes lies in the further weakening of state institutions needed for the effective exercise of citizenship. They see social disintegration rather than, in the case of Latin America, the old threat of the military as the major danger.

The volume edited by Tulchin, head of the Latin America Program at Woodrow Wilson, brings together a collection of high-quality essays on the difficulties of the democratic process in Latin America, not far removed from the tone of the conclusions drawn by the Przeworski group. Phillipe Schmitter of Stanford, one of the more ubiquitous scholars in the "transitology" business, provides the opening chapter. Like many, he came to it via study of "bureaucratic-authoritarianism" and "corporatism." Here he is defining himself as a "consolidationist." Charitable foundations and conference sites beware--the third wave is about to hit you.