Latin American Political Systems

ISA Cusco Study Center

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Latin American Political Systems

  • Host University

    ISA Cusco Study Center

  • Location

    Cusco, Peru

  • Area of Study

    Latin American Studies, Political Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Language of instruction
    Contact hours
    45 Contact Hours distributed during the semester in 30 sessions of 90 minutes each.
    Course description and objectives
    This class aims at providing the students with the conceptual and methodological tools necessary to understand current political systems in Latin America, the fundamental element being the notion of political system as a complex and inter-connected network. Throughout the course, we will study the Latin American region, considering each country both as a single unit and as part of a continent with common socio-political characteristics. Militarism, inequality, presidentialism, informal institutions and indigenous people will be some of the terms frequently used during the classes in our analysis of how and why cross-country realities affect political systems in different ways. Although the course is not meant to be a history class, we will analyze historical processes and their relation with current events.
    At the end of the course, students will be able to:
    a. Identify the most relevant concepts regardingpolitical systems and explain how they interact.
    b. Select and utilize academic sources to explain the Latin American political systems.
    c. Understand Latin America as a region with common characteristics and shared socio-economic challenges.
    d. Critically read and understand newspaper articles and online journals, as well as and academic articles about political events in Latin America.
    Write an essay sourcing previously published academic articles and employing the structure of political science academic work.
    Course pre-requisites
    There are no pre-requisites for this course.
    Close, David. 2009. Latin American Politics: An Introduction. Canada: University of Toronto Press.
    Course calendar *Sample*
    I. Introduction
    Week 1. Political systems and comparative politics
    Easton, D. 1957. An Approach to the Analysis of Political Systems. World Politics 9(3): 383-400.
    Lijphart, A. 1971. Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method. The American Political Science Review 65(3): 682-693.
    II. Latin American Political Reality
    Week 2. Presidentialism and Parlamentarism
    Mainwaring, S. 1990. Presidentialism in Latin America. Latin American Research Review 25(1): 157-179.
    Mainwaring, S. 1993. Presidentialism, Multipartism and Democracy. The Difficult Combination. Comparative Political Studies 26(2): 198-228.
    Week 3. Inequality in Latin America
    Hoffman, K. and Centeno, M.A. 2003. The Lopsided Continent: Inequality in Latin America. Annual Review of Sociology 29:363-390.
    Gasparini, L. and Lustig, N. 2011. The Rise and Fall of Income Inequality in Latin America. Centro de Estudios Distributivos, Laborales y Sociales Working Paper 118.
    Week 4. Insecurity and violence in Latin America
    Heinemann, A. and Verner, D. 2006. Crime and Violence in Development A Literature Review of Latin America and the Caribbean. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 41.
    Week 5. Democracy and dictatorship in Latin America
    Karl, T.L. 1990. Dilemmas of Democratization in Latin America. Comparative Politics 23(1): 1-21.
    Munck, G.L. 2004. Democratic Politics in Latin America. New Debates and Research Frontiers. Annual Review of Political Science 7: 437-462.
    Lipset, S.M. 1959. Some Social Prerequisites for Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy.?American Political Science Review 53: 69-105.
    Week 6. Colonial legacies
    Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S. and Robinson, J. 2002. ?The Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution.?The Quarterly Journal of Economics 117:1231-1294.
    Mahoney, J. 2003.?Long-Run Development and the Legacy of Colonialism in Spanish America.?The American Journal of Sociology 109(1): 50-106.
    Week 7. Informal institutions
    Freidenberg, F. and Levitsky, S. 2006. Informal Party Organization in Latin America. In: Helmke, G. and Levitsky, S. Informal Institutions and Democracy in Latin America: Understanding the Rules of the Game. Washington, D.C.: John Hopkins University Press
    Helmke, G. and Levitsky, S. 2004. Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda. Perspectives on Politics 2(4): 725-740.
    Week 8. Regional setting and socio-environmental conflicts
    Week 9. Citizens and perceptions: LAPOP and Latinobarometro
    III. Country Cases
    Week 10. Argentina
    Stokes, S.C. 2005. Perverse Accountability: A Formal Model of Machine Politics with Evidence from Argentina. American Political Science Review 99(3): 315-325.
    Levitsky, S. 2000. The Normalization of Argentine Politics. Journal of Democracy 11(2): 56-69.
    Brysk, A. 1993. From Above and Below. Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina. Comparative Political Studies 26(3): 259-285.
    Epstein, E. C. 1975. Politicization and Income Redistribution in Argentina: The Case of the Peronist Worker. Economic Development and Cultural Change 23(4): 615-631.
    Week 11. Brazil
    Hunter, W. and Power, T. 2007. Rewarding Lula: Executive Power, Social Policy, and the Brazilian Elections of 2006. Latin American Political and Society 49(1): 1-30.
    Bailey, S. 2009. Public Opinion on Nonwhite Underrepresentation and Racial Identity Politics in Brazil. Latina American Politics and Society 51(4): 69-99.
    Mainwaring, S. 1991. Politicians, Parties, and Electoral Systems: Brazil in Comparative Perspective. Comparative Politics 24(1): 21-43.
    Week 12. Peru
    Palmer, D. S. 1986. Rebellion in Rural Peru: The Origins and Evolution of Sendero Luminoso. Comparative Politics 18(2): 127-146.
    Levitsky, S. 1999. Fujimori and Post-Party Politics in Peru. Journal of Democracy 10(3): 78-92.
    Levitsky, S. 2011. A Surprising Turn Left. Journal of Democracy 22(4): 84-94.
    Week 13. Colombia
    Waldmann, P. 2007. Is There a Culture of Violence in Colombia?. International Journal of Conflict and Violence 1(1): 61-75.
    Richani, N. 1997. The Political Economy of Violence: The War-System In Colombia. Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 39(2): 37-81.
    Ibanez, A.M. and Velez, C. E. 2007. Civil Conflict and Forced Migration: The Micro Determinants and Welfare Losses of Displacement in Colombia. World Development 36(4): 659-676.
    Weel 14. Mexico
    Klesner, J. L. 2005. Electoral Competition and the New Party System in Mexico. Latin American Politics and Socety 47(2): 103-142.
    Fox, J. 1994. The Difficult Transition from Clientelism to Citizenship. Lessons from Mexico 46(2): 151-184.
    Kellner, T. and Pipitone, F. 2010. Inside Mexico?s Drug War. World Policy Journal 27(1): 29-37.
    Week 15. Conclusion and recapitulation
    Evaluation Criteria
    40% Attendance and Class Participation
    30% Presentation in class of one Latin American political system
    30% Final Paper
    Required readings and texts
    All the materials will be provided by the professor to the students. The proposed handbook would be of help for the class but it is not mandatory for the course.
    Special activities
    Some extra activities will be offered to the students. All of them will be voluntary and may entail up to 20% additional points for the final note.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.


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