October 15, 2002
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.- In his new book, Presidents Without Parties: The Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s ($55, 352pp., Penn State University Press, University Park, Penn. 2002), Javier Corrales, assistant professor of political science at Amherst College, argues that the crisis of political parties in modern democracies is affecting not just the ways citizens are represented, but also the way states govern the economy. In the 1990s, many Latin American presidents tried to govern without the support of their own parties. The result has been a conflict between the state and the ruling parties, which at times has been far more debilitating and damaging to the economy than the conflicts between the state and other groups. Corrales shows that effective economic management and change requires cooperation between presidents and ruling parties. Without such cooperation, states will be deprived of effective instruments for handling the opposition from vested groups and the credibility deficits that proliferate during periods of economic crisis.

Presidents Without Parties examines closely what happened in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s. Similarly situated when they embarked on economic reform in 1989, Argentina experienced success in the mid 1990s, followed by economic collapse in 2001, whereas Venezuela in 1992 simply plunged into a prolonged crisis from which it has yet to recover. Corrales shows precisely how the executive's relationship with the ruling party shaped the different outcomes in the two countries. He then applies this argument to eight other cases of market reform in Latin America in the 1990s, generating new hypotheses about the connection between market opening, democracy and political stability. Presidents Without Parties rejuvenates the ancient argument that governability requires political parties, at a time when few analysts see much to celebrate about the role of parties in modern democracies.

Corrales, who has taught at Amherst since 1997, has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and worked at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. He has taught in Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela, and earned a B.S. in foreign service from Georgetown University, and a Ph. D. in political science from Harvard University.