Radical Democracy in the Andes


After a decade in local office, are indigenous peoples' governments in the Andes fulfilling their promise to provide a more participatory, accountable, and deliberative form of democracy? Using current debates in democratic theory as a framework, Donna Lee Van Cott examines 10 examples of institutional innovation by indigenous party-controlled municipalities in Bolivia and Ecuador. In contrast to studies emphasizing the role of individuals and civil society, the findings underscore the contributions of leadership and political parties to promoting participation and deliberation - even at the local level. Democratic quality is more likely to improve where local actors initiate and design institutions. Van Cott concludes that indigenous parties' innovations have improved democratic quality in some respects, but that authoritarian tendencies endemic to Andean cultures and political organizations have limited their positive impact.
  • Cambridge University Press; August 2008
  • ISBN: 9780511451324
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: Radical Democracy in the Andes
  • Author: Donna Lee Van Cott
  • Imprint: Cambridge University Press

In The Press

'In recent years, reforms that are designed to expand the participatory and deliberative quality of democracy have received growing attention from political scientists. Whereas to date the comparative politics literature has focused closely on the path-breaking experience of Porto Alegre in Brazil, Van Cott's book leads the way in showing how these reforms can and should be studied in other contexts. Based on field research in ten different municipalities in Bolivia and Ecuador, Van Cott documents the promise and perils of 'radical democracy' as it is understood and pursued by indigenous political actors. The chief conceptual contribution of the book is to document and interpret what is unique about the attempt by indigenous Latin Americans to institute the same kinds of reforms that are now being introduced throughout the developing world (and often in developed country contexts as well).' Kent Eaton, University of California, Santa Cruz