Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America
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Journal of Politics, member of editorial board, —. Gretchen Helmke's book Courts under Constraints: Judges, Generals, and Presidents in Argentina advances a new explanation for why judges might rule against their governments, even when those judges do not enjoy judicial autonomy from them. Introducing a concept she calls "strategic defection," Helmke suggests that judges react to a weakening government by ruling against it to avoid removal or punishment by a new administration.
Critical response to the book included both acknowledgment of the novelty and importance of Helmke's work and concern about how it was presented. Couso remarked on the book's "many virtues" but also found "serious problems with her argument," most significant being what he called "methodological circularity.
Aside from this problem, he related, the book is a "well researched and elegantly written case study. Linn Hammergren deemed the book "an important contribution" to the literature but expressed concerns about several of the author's assumptions and pointed out areas in which Helmke oversimplifies or overlooks other important factors. In conclusion, Hammergren wrote that "Helmke's interpretation may not fully capture the dynamics, but it offers an important start on the project and one worthy of serious attention.
Education B. New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, New York: Cambridge University Press, When you do your back to school shopping at smile.
It argues that populism — the election of a personalistic outsider who mobilizes voters with an anti-establishment appeal — is a major catalyst for the emergence of competitive authoritarianism. Lacking experience with representative democratic institutions, possessing an electoral mandate to destroy the existing elite, and facing institutions of horizontal accountability controlled by that elite, populists have an incentive to launch plebiscitary attacks on institutions of horizontal accountability.
Where they succeed, weak democracies almost invariably slide into competitive authoritarianism. His research interests include political parties and party-building, authoritarianism and democratization, and weak and informal institutions, with a focus on Latin America. He is currently writing a book with Lucan Way on the durability of revolutionary regimes.
Prominent themes in her research are natural resource governance, political participation, and climate security.
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