GV4L7      Half Unit
Political Participation and Representation in Latin America

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mathias Poertner CBG 3.34


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Political Science and Political Economy, MSc in Public Administration and Government (LSE and Peking University) and MSc in Public Policy and Administration. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Priority will be given to students on the programmes listed above. 

Course content

Latin America has long been the center of dynamic political, social, and economic change. The region has suffered some of the most repressive political regimes, highest degrees of economic inequality, and worst organized crime. Yet Latin America has also been the focus of the some of the most innovative experiments in democratic participation and social mobilization.

This course surveys key topics related to political representation and participation in the region. The first five weeks focus on key moments of political representation and participation in twentieth and twenty-first century Latin America, going from the emergence of mass politics in the 1930s and 1940s to the collapse of democracies in the 1960s and 1970s, the return to democracy in the 1980s, and more recent processes of democratic consolidation and economic liberalization. The second half of the course then explores specific topics of political participation and representation in more detail. Here, the course will focus on the role of social movement organizations (e.g., labour unions and indigenous movements) and political parties for representation, the formation of political attitudes and voting behaviour, the emergence and demise of partisanship, the inclusion and representation of crucial social identities (such as ethnicity, gender, and class), specific party-voter linkages, and participatory institutions in the context of the recent inclusionary turn in the region.

This course will offer a grounding in underlying institutional and behavioural theories behind political representation and participation, as well the broader political and economic context in twentieth and twenty-first century Latin America. Students will gain empirical knowledge on the region’s politics, a deeper theoretical understanding of issues of political representation and participation, as well as crucial analytical skills.

Tentative outline of weekly topics:

  1. Overview & Introduction
  2. The Emergence of Mass Politics
  3. Democratic Breakdown
  4. Democratization
  5. Neoliberalism under Democratic Rule
  6. Popular Interests: Labour, the Rural Sector, and Indigenous Movements
  7. Political Parties and Partisanship
  8. Party-Voter Linkages: Ethnicity, Gender, and Class
  9. Party-Voter Linkages: Clientelism
  10. The Inclusionary Turn and Participatory Institutions


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

This course is delivered through seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the Lent Term.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

An annotated bibliography (1000 words) evaluating 3-6 sources which will be used in the summative long essay.

Indicative reading

  • Collier, Ruth Berins and David Collier. 1991. Shaping the Political Arena: Critical Junctures, the Labor Movement, and Regime Dynamics in Latin America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, excerpts.
  • Collier, Ruth Berins and Samuel Handlin, eds.  2009. Reorganizing Popular Politics: Participation and the New Interest Regime in Latin America.  University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, excerpts.
  • Hagopian, Frances. 2009. “Parties and Voters in Emerging Democracies.” In Carles Boix and Susan C. Stokes, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Holland, Alisha and Brian Palmer-Rubin. 2015. “Beyond the Machines: Clientelist Brokers and Interest Organizations in Latin America.” Comparative Political Studies 48(9): 1186-1223.
  • Kapiszewski, Diana, Steven Levitsky, and Deborah J. Yashar, eds., 2021. The Inclusionary Turn in Latin American Democracies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, excerpts.
  • Lupu, Noam. 2014. “Brand Dilution and the Breakdown of Political Parties in Latin America.” World Politics 66(4): 561-602.
  • Madrid, Raúl. 2008. “The Rise of Ethnopopulism in Latin America” World Politics 60(3): 475-508.
  • Magaloni, Beatriz. 2006. Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and its Demise in Mexico. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-43.
  • Poertner, Mathias. 2020. “The Organizational Voter: Support for New Parties in Young Democracies.” American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming.
  • Stokes, Susan, Thad Dunning, Marcelo Nazareno, and Valeria Brusco. 2013. Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism: The Puzzle of Distributive Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 3-26.
  • Yashar, Deborah. 2006. “Indigenous Politics in the Andes: Changing Patterns of Recognition, Reform, and Representation,” In Scott Mainwaring, Ana María Bejarano, and Eduardo Pizarro Leongómez, eds., The Crisis of Democratic Representation in the Andes. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 257-294.


Essay (80%, 2500 words) in the period between LT and ST.
Presentation (20%) in the LT.

  • Classroom participation & country reporting (20%): In addition to active participation in class, students are responsible for ongoing reporting about politics in one Latin American country, assigned in Week 1, throughout the course of the semester. Students will be responsible for following the news on “their” country every week. Once during the semester, each student will give a current event report on “their” country. This brief (5 minutes) presentation should describe one of the major political events that have affected “their” country within the last six months.
  • A summative essay (80%): a critical research essay addressing one of the course topics (2500 words)

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills