In This Review

The Inclusionary Turn in Latin American Democracies
The Inclusionary Turn in Latin American Democracies
Edited by Diana Kapiszewski, Steven Levitsky, and Deborah J. Yashar
Cambridge University Press, 2021, 420 pp

In this first-rate collection of scholarly essays, leading political scientists celebrate the progress that many Latin American countries have achieved since the 1990s in crafting more inclusive societies. Traditionally underrepresented people—including the nonunionized poor, indigenous peoples, and women—have made measurable gains in multiple areas. They now actively participate in political decision-making and enjoy access to more resources, including fiscal transfers, educational opportunities, and legal services. In their admirably lucid introduction, the editors attribute this “unprecedented expansion of citizenship” to how the region’s inequalities and poverty have manifested at the ballot box; given the repeated opportunity to vote, the poor majority not surprisingly demanded more rights, more voice, and better livelihoods. Although clearly sympathetic to leftist politics, the editors recognize that some right-wing governments have also advanced inclusionary reforms. At the same time, the editors regret that “changes were slower, less transformative, and less celebrated than promised and hoped.” Nor are these undeniable gains irreversible; progressive movements remain dangerously fragmented and decentralized. Looking ahead, the editors find grounds for both pessimism and optimism.