This study investigates the three main waves of political regime contention in Europe and Latin America. Surprisingly, protest against authoritarian rule spread across countries more quickly in the nineteenth century, yet achieved greater success in bringing democracy in the twentieth. To explain these divergent trends, the book draws on cognitive-psychological insights about the inferential heuristics that people commonly apply; these shortcuts shape learning from foreign precedents such as an autocrat's overthrow elsewhere. But these shortcuts had different force, depending on the political-organizational context. In the inchoate societies of the nineteenth century, common people were easily swayed by these heuristics: jumping to the conclusion that they could replicate such a foreign precedent in their own countries, they precipitously challenged powerful rulers, yet often at inopportune moments - and with low success. By the twentieth century, however, political organizations had formed. As organizational ties loosened the bounds of rationality, contentious waves came to spread less rapidly, but with greater success.
Kurt Weyland is the Lozano Long Professor of Latin American Politics and professor of government at the University of Texas, Austin. He received his PhD in political science at Stanford University in 1991. Based on intensive field research in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela, he has written three books and numerous journal articles on democracy, economic and social policy, populism, and diffusion processes in Latin America. Many of his articles and books have drawn on cognitive-psychological insights about bounded rationality to shed new light on puzzling political phenomena, such as the adoption of risky reforms in fragile democracies and the rash, ill-considered emulation of foreign precedents and models in a wide range of countries.
1. Introduction: puzzling trends in waves of contention; 2. A new theory of political diffusion: cognitive heuristics and organizational development; 3. Organizational development and changing modes of democratic contention; 4. The tsunami of 1848: precipitous diffusion in inchoate societies; 5. The delayed wave of 1917-19: organizational leaders as guides of targeted contention; 6. The slow but potent 'third wave' in South America: the prevalence of negotiated transitions; 7. Crosscurrents of the third wave: inter-organizational competition and negotiation in Chile; 8. Theoretical conclusions and comparative perspectives.