In This Review

Constructing Democracy: Human Rights, Citizenship, and Society in Latin America
Constructing Democracy: Human Rights, Citizenship, and Society in Latin America
Edited by Elizabeth Jelin and Eric Hershberg
Westview, 1996, 238 pp.

Leading Latin American academics, under the auspices of the Social Science Research Council, look at the relationship between human rights issues and activist organizations and the institutions of the democratic regimes established in Latin America in the 1980s. Taking the discussion beyond the now extensive literature on the transition from authoritarianism, which tended to focus on formal mechanisms of democratic representation, elections, political parties, and constitutions, these scholars focus on grassroots movements and the continuing violation of the human rights of large sectors of the population living in poverty and marginality. In fact, the authors see the struggle to achieve these social demands as the key mobilization issue of the 1990s. The international aspects of the human rights networks are well described by Kathryn Sikkink, and detailed chapters look at the roles of ethnic, gender, and racial discrimination. Overall, this is an excellent introduction to the complexities involved in the emergence of civil societies in Latin America and the redefinition of participation in still fragile democratic systems.