In This Review

Citizen Views of Democracy in Latin America
Citizen Views of Democracy in Latin America
Edited by Roderic Ai Camp
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001, 293 pp.

Do North Americans and Latin Americans see democracy in the same way? To answer this long-debated question, a remarkable survey was conducted in 1998 in three countries with distinct historical traditions: Mexico, Chile, and Costa Rica. Here Camp brings together its conclusions, with two major findings. First, no consensus exists among Latin Americans as to what democracy means; only Costa Ricans see democracy in largely political terms in the way that most North American do. Mexicans and Chileans, in contrast, are more representative of Latin America as a whole and see democracy as a socioeconomic question. Second, race is one of the most influential variables affecting perceptions of democracy, even though the topic has received little cross-national research. (The data set on which these conclusions are based is included in a cd-rom packaged with the book.) Alan Knight, a distinguished Mexicanist, casts a critical eye at these findings in an interesting conclusion. Polls may predict who will win elections, he writes, but they may not necessarily assess the severity of challenges to democracy itself. His critique notwithstanding, this book remains a major and well-substantiated contribution to the debate about democracy's values and its future in Latin America.