Democracy's Missing Link: Interest Representation and State-Society Relations in Latin America and Africa
18 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 4 Nov 2014
Date Written: 2012
The Third Wave of democratization brought regime transitions to scores of nations since 1974, but empirical measures in recent years have shown unmistakable reversions to authoritarianism by some countries. The 132 new constitutions promulgated in 118 countries during that time played contradictory roles in these two opposing trends: while the level of democracy increased in 62 countries following the adoption of a new constitution, it actually decreased or stayed the same in 70 others. This finding contradicts normative theories about the positive relationship between constitutions and democracy. Our project on constitutional change attributes this disjuncture to post-promulgation participation, rather than participatory constitution-making processes or intrinsic institutional characteristics. Our main objective is to identify conditions under which constitution-making in democratizing nations contributes to declines in democracy. Does the type and timing of constitution-making matter? Existing studies of constitutionalism have taken substantive and legalistic approaches or process-oriented political approaches, but none has combined the two. We pursue a multi-method research strategy combining quantitative indicators of democracy, the content of constitutions, and ethnographies of political processes used to establish them. Upon demonstrating the empirical anomaly that many new constitutions, even when created through participatory processes, do not contribute to democratization, we outline a research design to test impacts of new constitutions on other sets of outcomes, including law-bound rights such as human rights and the rule of law; resource distribution including public service delivery; and political culture, incorporating citizen satisfaction with governments. We expect participatory constitutional foundings to yield important shifts in political culture but few demonstrable improvements in political rights. We also expect that some disaggregations of democracy, such as law-bound rights, will have positive relationships with implementation of new constitutions, while the relationship with economic performance and other indicators may be less clear.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation