▪ Abstract 

This assessment of research on contemporary democratic politics in Latin America is organized around the distinction between institutional and alternative approaches. Initially it considers institutionalism on its own terms and, through an assessment of the debate about the institutional causes of gridlock, draws attention to key strengths of this literature. Thereafter, this article adopts a broader perspective that exposes some limitations but also other strengths of institutional analyses and considers the possibility of combining insights developed from institutional and alternative theoretical perspectives. The suggested terms of integration are as follows. With regard to causal theorizing, institutionalists need to borrow ideas from a broader literature on political regimes, especially regarding the causes of transitions to, and the breakdown of, democracy. With regard to descriptive theorizing, in contrast, students of the quality of democracy need to incorporate the contributions of institutionalists, especially regarding principal-agent relationships among citizens, policy makers, and policy administrators. Throughout this review, various pointed suggestions to advance research are offered.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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