Legislative Institutionalization in Latin America: Nicaragua (1979-2005) and Costa Rica (1871-2005)
AuthorPeralta, Jesus Salvador
Committee ChairWillerton, John P.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractHow do legislatures develop or institutionalize? Our knowledge about legislative development is mostly based on studies of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. state legislatures. However, we know next to nothing about legislative development in the emerging democracies of Latin America. Given the need to develop effective democratic institutions in that region, it is critical to understand how institutions change and how legislatures in particular develop. In this study, I develop a model of legislative development that complements rational choice and path dependent explanations of change. In particular, this model provides an answer to the question: how does a legislative organization change into a legislative institution?In particular, I hypothesize that legislative development varies depending on the extent to which electoral and constitutional reforms balance executive-legislative power asymmetries. To test this hypothesis, I compare legislative development in Nicaragua (1979-2005) and Costa Rica (1871-2005). Central to the process of legislative development are: (1) power asymmetries between presidents and assemblies, (2) the rules and organizations that are established to balance these asymmetries, (3) how rules and organizations affect the development of the legislatures from simple, subordinate organizations into complex and autonomous institutions, and (4) how the broader social, political, and economic environment contributes to legislative development.I find that political actors do not act or function within an historical or contextual vacuum, nor does history and context alone determine political choices and outcomes. Instead, political actors function within rational, institutional, and historical boundaries, so an approach that incorporates aspects of both rational choice and path dependent explanations is preferable to existing models of legislative change. Therefore, part of my contribution is (1) to clarify the conceptual confusion surrounding institutions, organizations, and rules, and reduce ambiguity relating to their incorrect use in current scholarship; (2) to conceptualize legislative development as a process - not an outcome - that unfolds in a causally related sequence; and (3) to develop a Bounded Rationality Model that complements rational choice with path dependent explanations of legislative development to explain how organizations become institutions.
Degree ProgramPolitical Science