Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Kenneth P. Erickson

Committee Members

Frances Fox Piven

Mark Ungar

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics


participatory democracy, participation, clientelism, social capital, deepening democracy, human development


During the past two decades participatory democracy policies came to be seen as a useful alternative to address high inequality and lack of meaningful political representation allowed by clientelist politics in various parts of the world. This project explores the question: what is the impact that state-promoted participation has on democracy and development, the two key areas that political reformers in Latin America attempted to improve at the turn of the millennium? The hypotheses that this project proposes in response to that question are that participatory policies do not underperform neoliberal policies on macroeconomic or human development; that state-promoted participation strengthens social capital and clientelism hinders it; and that state-promoted participation strengthens democratic values and clientelism hinders them. The macroeconomic and human development hypothesis is self-explanatory. However, the introduction of the concept of social capital is required here as part of the causal mechanism that explains the impact that clientelism and participatory policies have on democracy.

This study uses two cases that represent both ends of the political and economic policy spectrums: neoliberal Mexico under the PAN governments of 2000–2012, which broke a 70-year monopoly of the PRI, and participatory democracy in socialist Venezuela, where Hugo Chávez’s 1998 election broke the 40-year political monopoly of two centrist and elitist parties. The new political beginnings in these countries resulted in similar achievements in economic and human development, and in divergent and complex trajectories in terms of clientelism and participation.