The Struggle For Democratic Politics In The Dominican Republic. JONATHAN HARTLYN: Chapel Hill, London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Gillian Beard


The book is informative and theoretically rich in its explanations of the struggle for democracy in the Dominican Republic. It is both a political history of the Dominican Republic and more broadly, a book about democratisation. In particular, it discusses the impact of neopatrimonialism: a system of rule in which "the centralisation of power in the hands of the ruler who seeks to reduce the autonomy of his followers by generating ties of loyalty and dependence" often results in a "blurring of public and private interests and purposes within the administration" (p.14), which has worked against the consolidation of democracy in the Dominican Republic. However, Hartlyn's approach argues against seeking uni-causal factors in contrast to previous works which have either focused on structural features of US imperialism or cultural factors stemming from a Spanish colonial legacy and the impact of personalistic rulers such as Trujillo and Balaguer. Rather than viewing these factors as determining the processes and prospects for democratic consolidation in the Dominican Republic, the author adopts a historical path-dependent approach to democratisation in which the historical legacy influences and interacts with political-institutional factors. Thus Hartlyn engages in the debate about structure and agency attempting to bring a more nuanced understanding to the processes of democratic transition and consolidation in the Dominican Republic. Overall, the book does this well.

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