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Polity: Demystifying Democracy in Latin America and Beyond

Joe Foweraker
Polity: Demystifying Democracy in Latin America and Beyond
ISBN: 978-1-62637-693-9
ISBN: 978-1-62637-727-1
2018/224 pages/LC: 2017036607
"[A] refreshing book that tackles the study of democracy from a realistic perspective.... provides a rich theoretical analytical framework which will enable researchers to approach highly relevant topics like the persistence of clientelism within democratic regimes as well as the political logic of populist success in more nuanced ways."—Saskia P. Ruth-Lovell, Democratization

"Foweraker's wide-ranging analytical review and proposed conceptual framework is an intellectual tour de force. His book provides an alternative perspective to excessively reductionist and decontextualized analyses of Latin American political institutions.” —Jonathan Hartlyn, Latin American Politics and Society

"A highly innovative and successful attempt to reshape our thinking about democracy in general and Latin American political systems in particular.... Foweraker captures the contending oligarchic and democratic elements in 'democratic' political systems and directs us to explore the formation of these systems in the context of the interaction of state, regime, and civil society."—Evelyne Huber, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"An original, well-organized, and intellectually coherent volume that covers a wide range of debates with analytical rigor and a punchy style.... It will be recognized as a major contribution to our understanding of the nature of political regimes in Latin America."—Maxwell Cameron, University of British Columbia


Amidst the many lamentations about the problems of democracy, Joe Foweraker turns his attention to specific questions: Is democracy incompatible with stark social inequalities? Why are so many democratic governments deemed unaccountable and beset by populist pressures? Perhaps most fundamentally, why does democratic theory have no answers to these questions?

Foweraker argues that finding answers requires a root-and-branch revision of our thinking about democracy—a revision that asks us to stop talking about "democracy" and start talking about "polity." Drawing on the political realities of Latin America, he describes polity as a system encompassing the distinct but conjoined domains of oligarchy and democracy; and he offers a conceptual framework that identifies the key components and logic of polity. His innovative analysis affords a better understanding not only of democracy in Latin America, but also of democratic regimes around the world.


Joe Foweraker is honorary professor of politics at the University of Exeter, as well as emeritus fellow of St Antony's College at the University of Oxford, where he previously was professor of Latin American politics.


  • Polity and Latin America.
  • Polity as a Political System.
  • The Making of the Modern Polity.
  • State, Regime, and Civil Society.
  • Polity, Inequality, and the Republic.
  • Populism and Polity.
  • Constitutionalism and Polity.
  • Polity, Rights, and Protest.
  • Demystifying Democracy.