Protest State: The Rise of Everyday Contention in Latin America
Forthcoming with Oxford University Press.
Why is protest a normal, almost routine form of political participation in certain emerging democracies, but not others? In light of surging protests in countries across the developing world, this book answers this question through a focus on recent trends in the quality of democratic political institutions and socioeconomic development in Latin America. I that increasingly engaged citizenries, forged by economic growth and technological advances throughout the region, combined with dysfunctional political institutions have fueled more contentious modes of participation in Latin America, as citizens’ demands for government responsiveness have overwhelmed many regimes’ institutional capacity to provide it. Where weak institutions and active citizenries collide, countries can morph into “protest states,” where contentious participation becomes so common as to render it a conventional characteristic of everyday political life.
Drawing on cross-national surveys from Latin America and a case study of Argentina, which includes a rich dataset of protest events and dozens of interviews with political elites and citizen activists, I test this explanation against other leading theories in the contentious politics literature. Rather than emphasizing how worsening economic conditions and mounting grievances fuel protest, this book builds the case that it is actually the improvement of economic conditions amidst low quality political institutions that lies at the root of surging contention in the region. In presenting and systematically defending this novel approach, Protest State: The Rise of Everyday Contention in Latin America offers a comprehensive multilevel, mixed-methods study of one of the most intriguing puzzles in Latin American politics today: In the midst of an unprecedented era of democratic governments and economic prosperity, why are so many people protesting?