Political Science Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
David Altman, Pablo Policzer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 March 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0036


Chile and Uruguay share a number of historical and political similarities, and the two countries have often been compared. Both are small countries with a comparable history of democratic institutions that broke down at the same time and for similar reasons. Both countries experienced similar types of military authoritarian rule, albeit of different duration and intensity. And both countries faced similar challenges after the transition from authoritarian back to democratic rule. Political science is also a relatively young discipline in each country (compared to other social science disciplines such as economics or sociology), and comparative politics as a subdiscipline is even younger. Yet, in both cases it has grown by leaps and bounds, and it has been accompanied by a range of works comparing and contrasting each country’s political system and the challenges they face. Given their comparable political development and the similar development of political science in each country, this article is divided into three sections: in the first, the literature focuses on the period before military dictatorship; in the second, the literature deals with the period during and about military dictatorship; and in the third, the literature treats the challenges emerging during the democratic period after dictatorship. This is not a chronology of the development of comparative politics in each country, but rather a summary of key works on each period written at different points in time. Our overview traces the comparative politics on as well as the comparative politics in each country.


Both Chile and Uruguay figure in Dahl 1971. The author points out, prematurely in retrospect, that “polyarchy has been possible in Chile, where the military has traditionally been reluctant to intrude into the political arena . . .” (p. 50); and that it was “puzzling that polyarchy collapsed in Argentina but not . . . in Chile and Uruguay” (p. 135).

  • Dahl, Robert. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1971.

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    This seminal book examines the conditions under which closed regimes can become more open and responsive to their citizens.

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