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Michael Coppedge, "The Dynamic Diversity of Latin American Party Systems," Party Politics, 4 (October 1998), 547-568.

First Paragraph:
Recent research on Latin America has gone a long way toward correcting the old stereotype of the region's parties and party systems as excessively pragmatic, clientelistic, personalistic, volatile, uncohesive, and therefore weak. A new conventional wisdom has developed that emphasizes the variety among Latin American countries rather than their common deviation from the norms of the industrialized north. Our understanding now needs to go a step farther, by recognizing that there is almost as much difference within each country as there is across the countries of Latin America. This recognition requires us to be more cautious in generalizing about cross-national differences. Also, scholars must now pay more systematic attention to the substance of party competition, which should complement our knowledge of more objectively measured party-system characteristics such as fragmentation and volatility. This article attempts to improve the new conventional wisdom in both ways, by describing the ideology, polarization, mean left-right positions, fragmentation and institutionalization of the party systems of 20th-century Latin America on an election-by-election basis.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1: The dynamic diversity of Latin American party systems (95% confidence intervals)
Table 1: Reliability of party classification
Table 2: Personality and ideology (N = 149 elections)
Table 3: Mean tendency and polarization (N = 147 elections)
Table 4: Indicators of party system institutionalization
Table 5: Fragmentation of bloc and party systems (N=128 elections)

Last Paragraph:
Important to try, because whether party systems are weak or strong, left or right, ideological or pragmatic, fragmented or monolithic, they have important consequences. The nature of party systems affects the meaning of elections, the quality of representation, the nature of economic policy choices, and the legitimacy and survival of governments and the democratic regime itself, especially in Latin America.