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Understanding Institutional Weakness – Book presentation

January 30 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Whereas people often turn to institutions – the rules that structure human interactions – to understand outcomes, and to effect policy changes, both analysts and policymakers often decry the failure of weak institutions to accomplish their purpose in Latin America. In this book, we offer a conceptual framework for studying weak institutions, and a typology of institutional weakness that helps to clarify the political puzzles posed by institutions that do not accomplish their ostensible purpose. Institutions can be weak, we say, because they are unstable, because they do not command compliance, or because they do not actually change any outcomes even if they are complied with. We discuss the reasons behind the adoption of these institutions and the conditions that explain their prevalence in Latin America.

María Victoria Murillo is a Professor in the Department of Political Science and the School of International Affairs at Columbia University as well as the Director of the Institute for Latin American Studies. She is the author Labor Unions, Partisan Coalitions, and Market Reforms in Latin America (Cambridge University Press 2001), Political Competition, Partisanship, and Policymaking in the Reform of Latin American Public Utilities (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and with Ernesto Calvo of Non-Policy Politics: Richer Voter, Poorer Voter and the Diversification of Parties Electoral Strategies (Cambridge University Press, 2019), and with Daniel Brinks and Steven Levitsky of Understanding Institutional Weakness: Power and Design in Latin American Institutions (Cambridge University Press, Elements in Latin American Politics and Society, 2019). She received her BA from the Universidad de Buenos Aires and her MA and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Daniel Brinks is Professor of Government and of Law, and Chairs the Government Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Dan’s research focuses on the role of the law and courts in supporting democracy and human rights. His most recent book (with Abby Blass) is The DNA of Constitutional Justice in Latin America (CUP 2018).

Steven Levitsky is David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies and Professor of Government at Harvard University.  His areas of research include democratization and authoritarianism, political parties, and weak and informal institutions.  He is author of Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America: Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2003), co-author (with Lucan Way) of Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and co-author (with Daniel Ziblatt) of How Democracies Die (Crown, 2018). He is currently writing a book on the durability of revolutionary regimes.


January 30
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


802 International Affairs Building
420W 118th Street
New York, NY 10027 United States