Wilson Center Experts

René A. Mayorga

Fellow
Latin American Program

Expertise:
Latin America
Affiliation:
Senior Researcher, Centro Boliviano de Estudios Multidisciplinarios (CEBEM)
Wilson Center Project(s):
"Weak States and Institutional Reforms in the Andean Region"
Term:
Sep 01, 2006
-
May 01, 2007

As an undergraduate student at the University of Marburg and the Free University of Berlin my key interests were in political philosophy and my focus was on philosophical foundations of politics and modernity. Berlin was then at the heart of the Cold War and the confrontation of radically different political systems. My first intellectual and political experiences were deeply marked by this context that sparked my interest in issues related with the interaction of modernity, critical theory, and democracy. My dissertation on Heidegger's ontology and his interpretation of modernity at the Free University of Berlin arose from my concern to come to grips with a philosophical way of thinking aimed at restoring anti-democratic politics. As professor of political science at FLACSO, Mexico I continued working on issues of critical theory by bringing them together with my growing interest on the pitfalls of democratization in Latin America. Since my return to Bolivia in 1984 after more than two decades of residence in Europe and Mexico my main theoretical concern shifted toward exploring the complex problems and challenges of democratic institution-building and governability in Latin America focusing on issues of political representation, the role of political parties, the interaction between political parties and social movements, and the implications of electoral systems and presidentialism for party system development and democracy. Various books like De la Anomia Política al Orden Democrático, CEBEM 1991, Democracia y Gobernabilidad en América Latina, Nueva Sociedad/Caracas, CEBEM 1992, were the product of this research for which I had the privilege to receive the support of the Volkswagen Foundation and the Swedish Cooperation Agency for Research and Development. As Visiting Fellow of the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre Dame (1994, 2001), Associate Professor of FLACSO, Ecuador (1999-2004), and Visiting Professor at Brown University (2004-2005) I was given the great opportunity to deepen in teaching and research this line of research by addressing the problems of democratic governance associated with the crisis of governments and political parties as well as with the emergence and politicization of ethnic-based social movements. Given the setbacks and the erosion of democracies in Peru, Venezuela, and Bolivia, I have increasingly given more attention to the causes and consequences of the collapse of party systems in the region and to the revival of authoritarian, populist regimes. An in-depth and updated comparative work on populism in the Andean Region work led to several publications like Antipolítica y Neopopulismo, CEBEM 1995, and "Outsiders and Neo-Populism: The Road to Plebiscitary Democracy," The Crisis of Political Representation in the Andes, eds. Ana María Bejarano, Eduardo Pizarro, and Scott Mainwaring, Stanford University Press 2006. Conferences I co-organized at FLACSO, Ecuador -"Institutional Reforms and Political Crisis in the Andes" (April 2004) - and at Brown University -"Turmoil in the Andes: Eroding States and Fragile Democracies" (April 2005) - helped me design a new research project which I began to carry out with a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2005-2006. This project on weak states in Bolivia and Ecuador which is the core of the work I will pursue at the Wilson Center is based on key conclusions of my analysis of the collapse of party systems and the breakdown of democratic governments provoking a state crisis. I intend to deal with the crucial problem which has raised doubts about the viability of democracy in the Andes.
 

Education

B.A., Ph.D., Free University of Berlin
 

Subjects

Bolivia,Democratization,Latin America
 

Experience

  • Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, 2005-06
  • Craig M. Cogut Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies, Brown University, 2004-05
  • Associate Professor of Political Science, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), Ecuador, 1999-2004
  • Visiting Fellow, Kellogg Institute, University of Notre Dame, 1994, 2001
  • Visiting Professor, Ortega y Gasset Institute, Madrid and University of Salamanca, 1994, 1998, 2004
  • Senior Researcher, Centro Boliviano de Estudios Multidisciplinarios, 1989-present
  • Professor of Political Science, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), Mexico, 1977-83

Expertise

Institutional development of democracy in Latin America; political parties and governance in the Andes region; democratic theory and political philosophy

Project Summary

The project aims at analyzing two cases - Bolivia and Ecuador - from a comparative perspective by dealing with the causal relationships between the design and the implementation of institutional reforms, on the one hand, and their unintended consequences on governing political parties and state capacity, on the other hand. My key argument is that lingering, inherited problems of state weakness were compounded by constitutional and electoral reforms. The project's main objective is to explore the causal linkages between reforms and state erosion in some important dimensions. Given the political instability and the deterioration of democracy in the Andean region, the relevance of this project to contemporary research and policy issues lies basically in the need to inquire into state weakness as one of the fundamental factors accounting for the current economic and social crisis as well as for the dissatisfaction with democracy in the region.
 

Major Publications

  • "Outsiders and Neo-Populism: The Road to Plebiscitary Democracy," The Crisis of Political Representation in the Andes, eds. Ana María Bejarano, Eduardo Pizarro, and Scott Mainwaring (Stanford University Press, 2006)
  • "Bolivia's Democracy at the Crossroads," The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America: Advances and Setbacks, eds. Frances Hagopian and Scott Mainwaring (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
  • Antipolítica y Neopopulismo, CEBEM, 1995

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