Building New Democracies: Economic and Social Reform in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico


287 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4402-6
DDC 338.981




Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom and The History of Fort St. Joseph, and the co-author of
Invisible and Inaudible in Washington: American


Duquette’s book focuses on three authoritarian countries that have
evolved into democracies during the past quarter-century: Brazil, Chile,
and Mexico. Their success (or otherwise) in dealing with economic and
social problems, he says, serves as an indicator of stability and

Duquette concentrates on recent social and economic changes. He does
not examine the reasons for the end of military rule in Brazil and Chile
or for the decline of the PRI’s credibility in Mexico. Nor does he
dwell on the difficulties of working with bureaucracies, armies, and
police forces inherited from the previous regime. Although the author
sees major differences among the three countries examined, his research
led him to a more optimistic view of the survival of democracy than he
had anticipated.

“Authoritarianism is only moderately reformist, if at all,”
Duquette concludes. “We doubt that the principles of a free market
economy are even minimally compatible with an authoritarian rule.” An
appendix of statistical tables certainly confirms this opinion. All
three countries experienced substantially larger growths in their gross
domestic products in the 1990s than in the period between 1973 and 1990.
Inflation fell in Chile, Mexico, and (after 1995) Brazil. Urban
employment and infant mortality fell, while school enrolment and life
expectancy increased. Access to safe water continued to improve.

This scholarly book is supplemented with extensive charts and tables, a
bibliography, and an index. The author has a wide range of knowledge
about the three countries under consideration, particularly with respect
to trade and investment patterns, politicians and bureaucrats (some of
whom are competent and honest), and agrarian reforms. Footnotes or
endnotes rather than bracketed documentation of sources might have made
the book more readable.


Duquette, Michel., “Building New Democracies: Economic and Social Reform in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,