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Presidents Without Parties: The Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s
Presidents Without Parties: The Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s
By Javier Corrales
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002, 364 pp
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Political science prognostications about Latin America can quickly become redundant. This book is a case in point. Corrales argues that scholars and the general public have not given sufficient attention to the role political parties play in democracies, especially in the implementation of the market-oriented reforms that took place during the 1990s. Corrales argues that political parties are not only central instruments of popular representation, but also key tools of governance, essential to economic management. For example, during the 1990s, Argentina seemed the paragon of resolve and Venezuela the epitome of economic decay. In Argentina, the executive introduced its economic policies with the consent of the ruling party, whereas in Venezuela relations between the executive and the ruling party became intensely acrimonious. The problem with this thesis is that, in the longer term, neither worked: the Argentine reforms proved no more self-sustaining than did those in Venezuela. "The collapse of 2002 seems all the more inexplicable, given the achievements of the 1990s," Corrales ruefully notes in the preface. Thus, although this book usefully brings political parties back into the equation, it does not resolve the conundrum of Latin America's chronic failures or the reasons for the fragility of its rare successes.