From Movements to Parties in Latin America: The Evolution of Ethnic Politics

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From Movements to Parties in Latin America: The Evolution of Ethnic Politics

By Donna Lee Van Cott
Cambridge University Press, 2005
296 pp. $75.00
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In the last two decades, indigenous political parties have emerged to fight for self-rule and defend cultural identity -- and sometimes to attack the democratic state and its insertion in the global economy. In this magnificent landmark study, Van Cott establishes herself as the preeminent empiricist on and advocate for ethnic parties in South America. The Tulane political scientist persuasively attributes the parties' rise to the decline of the traditional left (permitting indigenous groups to seize the banners of social injustice), to political decentralization (allowing electoral competition at local levels), and to the more favorable institutional environment (lower registration requirements, for example). She admits that there are tensions between those indigenous leaders willing to work within democratic institutions and those who reject them entirely, but she concludes that, in general, ethnic parties are deepening democracy by making it more inclusive, participatory, and legitimate. Not an economist, Van Cott does not consider how ethnic parties' antiglobalization posture might translate into better-paying jobs.