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#62 Prospects for Democracy: Regime Transformation and Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: A Rapporteur's Report

By Kevin J. Middlebrook

Recent events in Latin America and Southern Europe have focused scholars' and policy makers' attention on regime transformation as a major issue in the study of political change. During the 1960s and early 1970s, institutional military coups ended civilian democratic regimes and initiated prolonged periods of military authoritarian rule in several South American countries. These developments and the policies subsequently adopted by these regimes prompted widespread debate regarding the relationship between economic and political change in countries such as these. This debate questioned the positive relationship between industrial growth and modernization and the emergence of political democracy that had been hypothesized in earlier theories of modernization, and resulted in a new concern with the origins and consequences of "bureaucratic-authoritarian" regimes. Then, beginning in the late 1970s, several of these same regimes showed increasing signs of political liberalization and/or movement toward more democratic political practices and procedures. These events, and comparable changes in several Central American countries and in Greece, Portugal, and Spain, have once again brought the question of regime transformation to the forefront of scholarly and policy concerns. The origins, characteristics, and outcomes of the transition from authoritarian rule raise a number of important theoretical and conceptual questions. Moreover, a better understanding of the process of regime transformation may highlight the means by which the prospects for a democratic outcome can be improved. 


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Latin America Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin America Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more