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Moises Arce, "Parties and Social Protest in Latin America's Neoliberal Era," Party Politics, 16 (September, 2010), 669-686. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol16/issue5/ ]

First paragraph:
In recent years, a Polanyi-like defensive reaction to the spread of economic liberalization has swept the Latin American region (Polanyi, 1994). The election of several left-leaning governments and the rise of anti-neoliberal mobilizations appear to have caught scholars by surprise, as the dominant school of thought to date has emphasized the atomizing effects of economic liberalization (e.g. Agüero and Stark, 1998; Kurtz, 2004; Oxhorn and Ducantenzeiler, 1998; Wolff, 2005). Street protests in Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia have forced embattled popularly elected presidents to leave office early. Seen as the 'new poor', indigenous groups in Ecuador and Bolivia and the unemployed in Argentina, rural villagers in Peru, among other examples, have been the most important social forces in opposition to the continuation of market policies (Arce, 2008; Garay, 2007; Silva, 2007). These Polanyian resistance events suggest that economic liberalization forces no longer reign uncontested in the political arena, and that political democracy has become a 'firewall' that can help correct the excesses of economic liberalization policies. However, it remains unclear why in some countries discontent towards economic liberalization proceeds through the ballot box and the legislative arena, while in other countries this dissatisfaction explodes onto the streets.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Correlates of protest in Latin America's neoliberal era
Table 2. Predicted number of collective protests
Table 3. Sensitivity analysis

Last Paragraph:
(First paragraph of Conclusion) Seeking to understand the meso-level mechanisms that associate democracies with protest, the article has examined how political parties shape the level of collective protests in the aftermath of Latin America's neoliberal turn. My central findings suggest that certain attributes of political parties have a direct influence on these societal responses. Countries with high levels of electoral volatility and legislative fragmentation experience greater levels of protest activity. Moreover, both electoral volatility and party fragmentation are often taken as evidence of party system instability, decay or upheaval (Roberts and Wibbels, 1999; Tavits, 2005a), and it is perhaps no coincidence that the Latin American countries that have experienced a significant number of street protests are also some of the same countries where political party systems have been imploding. This article demonstrates that stronger and bigger parties represent a superior institutional linkage between citizens and elected officials compared to weaker and smaller parties. Weaker and smaller parties produce a political vacuum, which societal actors seize to achieve their goals.

Last updated August 2010