Traditional interpretations of authoritarianism argue that after independence in the early nineteenth century, the Latin American republics had difficulties in shaking their Iberian heritage. Although they drafted constitutions that borrowed heavily on liberal ideals and institutions, leaders proved ineffective at governing. As a result, many Latin American countries soon shifted to dictatorial forms of government, marked with elite rule, political instability, militarism, and authoritarianism. This led some leaders to argue that the new republics needed strong, centralized governments more than social and economic equality. Fowler points to these as common reasons throughout Latin American history for the "longevity, resilience, and endurance" of authoritarian regimes, including "the consummate political skills of the dictators, their pragmatism, flexibility and timely opportunism, their use of clientelism, patronage and cooption, their personalist politics, prestige or charisma, and effective repression." Authoritarian leaders supplemented these characteristics with the use of military forces, a manipulation of political parties, and expression of "a certain ideological vagueness" (Fowler, p. xiii). This authoritarian tradition hindered the emergence of Western-style democratic forms of government.
Corporatist theories, which gained popularity in the 1950s, emphasized this Iberian heritage of authoritarianism to explain underdevelopment in Latin America. This authoritarianism expressed itself politically through a patriarchal monarchy, economically in feudalistic landholding systems, militarily with elitist structures, and religiously with the Catholic hierarchy. During its colonization of the Americas, Iberia transferred these authoritarian institutions to the New World. Corporatist interpretations blamed a failure of democracy and economic development on the persistence of hierarchical structures in modern institutions, with power flowing vertically from the top down. Jan Knippers Black summarized corporatist theories as "blaming the Iberians" (p. 4). Critics of corporatist theories have noted that countries like Chile that were subject to authoritarian military rule toward the end of the twentieth century were on the fringes of Spanish colonization and emerged out of a long democratic tradition. Given this reality, many aspects of corporatist theories begin to break down, as do interpretations that place blame on the legacy of hereditary absolute monarchies for the persistence of strong, centralized authoritarian structures.
- Authoritarianism - Latin America - Bureaucratic Authoritarianism
- Authoritarianism - Latin America - Caudillos
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