In This Review

The Sources of Democratic Consolidation
The Sources of Democratic Consolidation
By Gerard Alexander
Cornell University Press, 2002, 292 pp

Alexander studies numerous European cases in the last 100 years -- the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain -- to develop a new theory of democratic consolidation for eastern Europe. Using rational-choice theory, Alexander argues that the right will commit to democracy and abandon authoritarianism if it believes that democracy does not threaten its safety. From there, he develops a series of alternative calculations that focus on political actors' basic preferences and expectations. For all his efforts, however, Alexander appears to be trying to wrap a theoretical mantle around quite different cases. He also does not address whether the right faces different choices and opportunities, and hence different evaluations of what constitutes a low risk, in the countries examined. And although the right's behavior may be a necessary condition, it is not sufficient to explain democratic outcomes. The case studies are more nuanced, and the author's knowledge of Spanish political history is especially impressive, but he has paradoxically made the attempt to predict outcomes difficult. His cases inadvertently show that his sensible hypothesis covers countless possibilities, among which the important choices will be determined by each case's circumstances. Despite the author's intention, he has produced a book of social science that turns into a fine rehabilitation of history.