Opportunity Structures and Post-authoritarian Participation: Argentina and Chile Compared

Emily Bickle Carty, University of Denver


This work seeks to address a paradox between the existing literature on political disaffection and participation in new democracies through a comparative study of Chile and Argentina. According to Torcal and Lago (2006), disaffection in new democracies is associated with less conventional and nonconventional forms of participation. While on an individual basis their conclusions hold true in Chile and Argentina, the comparisons on a national level do not fit this pattern - despite the higher levels of disaffection in Argentina, it has similar or higher levels of participation. This paper employs Sidney Tarrow's theoretical framework of opportunity structures (1994, 1995) to test the causal pathway from the transitions to democracy to current participation, concluding that: 1) that the type of transition results in context-specific institutional and perceptional opportunity structures that facilitate some types of participation and inhibit others, which, in the case of the Chilean controlled transition led to primarily electoral participation, compared to the induced transition in Argentina that allowed for all types of participation; and 2) that the repertoires of post-authoritarian participation formed after the transition interact with current political institutions to create current opportunity structures that produce different characteristics of political participation - almost exclusively electoral in Chile, compared to a broader variety and number of participants in Argentina.