Social Capital in Developing Democracies: Nicaragua and Argentina Compared

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Social Capital in Developing Democracies: Nicaragua and Argentina Compared
By Leslie E. Anderson
Cambridge University Press, 2010
320 pp. $27.99
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Despite being a poor, agrarian society, Anderson argues, Nicaragua is progressing toward democracy because Nicaraguans possess the right civic virtues: inclinations toward mutual cooperation with and trust in their fellow citizens. More controversially, Anderson claims that the Sandinista revolution -- arising from grass-roots organizations and advancing ideals of social justice -- greatly enhanced that social capital. She argues that Argentina, in contrast, despite its relative wealth, is less democratic than it ought to be because Argentines -- especially the political heirs to Juan Perón's semi-fascism -- are distrustful and hence not inclined to democratic participation and peaceful compromise. Still, Argentine checks and balances have restrained the authoritarian tendencies of Perón's followers -- a demonstration that states can construct "institutional capital," such as strong parliaments and legal systems, that resist tyranny. Skeptical readers may find Anderson's empirical tests a bit thin, but Social Capital in Developing Democracies, always spirited and stimulating, is a valuable addition to the literature on the multiple pillars of democratic development.