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New Left Review I/223, May-June 1997

John Markoff

Really Existing Democracy: Learning From Latin America in the Late 1990s

The resurgence of democracy in Latin America in the last decade or so came as a surprise to many who saw the continent, if not the whole of the Third World, as producing conditions which favoured only the exercise of tyranny. Latin American democracy will indeed remain surprising to those who think of democracy as a single, fixed ideal which nations at one time or another more or less attain. If we ask questions about what kind of democracy has developed, and in whose interests, about the constraints on democracy in the nation-state of globalizing capitalism, then it may be possible to see what it really amounts to, that periodic exercise of the vote. Perhaps the masses are permitted democracy only when the alternatives for the elite seem worse, or when prospects for change are remote.

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John Markoff, ‘Really Existing Democracy: Learning from Latin America in the Late 1990s’, NLR I/223: £3

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