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Authoritarianism

Latin AmericaCaudillos, Corporatism, Bureaucratic Authoritarianism, Bibliography

Traditional interpretations of authoritarianism in Latin America root this phenomenon in the style of Iberian colonization in the region. The Hispanic world, this argument alleges, was naturally more authoritarian than Anglo-Saxon cultures. Furthermore, the cultures they encountered in the New World (particularly the Aztec and Inca Empires) were themselves very hierarchical, which further facilitated authoritarian forms of governance. Subsequent interpretations have generally rejected the racist implications of these theories in favor of more sophisticated and nuanced explanations. Nevertheless, debates continued on how best to confront authoritarian tendencies.

Authoritarianism is related to, but distinct from, dictatorship and totalitarianism. Unlike totalitarianism, authoritarian regimes sometimes allow limited political pluralism (though, unlike in a democracy, that opposition is limited and often not legitimate). In addition, authoritarianism lacks a defined ideology, which characterizes totalitarian regimes. Furthermore, authoritarianism tends to rely on apathy rather than a mobilized and engaged population. George Philip notes how rising inequality under democratic government leads to dis-enchantment, with significant minorities preferring authoritarian over democratic leadership. Some scholars contend that democratic systems can be strengthened through a reformation of political institutions, such as political parties and electoral processes. Others maintain that prolonged socioeconomic crises are a larger threat to stability and that economic growth is necessary to prevent a lapse back into authoritarianism. These economic policies, however, often take the form of neoliberal reforms that are profoundly antidemocratic and lead back to an authoritarian style of governance.

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