Skip to main content
Log in

Path-Dependent Explanations of Regime Change: Central America in Comparative Perspective

  • Articles
  • Published:
Studies in Comparative International Development Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

This article explores the application of ideas about path dependence to the study of national political regime change. It first reviews the central components of pathdependent explanation, including the concepts of critical juncture and legacy. This mode of explanation is then employed in the analysis of diverging regime trajectories in Central America during the 19th and 20th centuries. The article argues that the 19th-century liberal reform period was a critical juncture that locked the Central American countries onto divergent paths of long-term development, culminanting in sharply contrasting regime outcomes. A final section puts the argument about Central America in a broader comparative perspective by considering other pathdependent explanations of regime change.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Abbott, Andrew. 1992. “From Causes to Events: Notes on Narrative Positivism.”Sociological Methods and Research 20: 428–455.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alvarenga, Ana Patricia. 1994. “Reshaping the Ethics of Power: A History of Violence in Western Rural El Salvador.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

  • Alvarez Montalvan, Emilio. 1994.Las fuerzas armadas en Nicaragua: Sinopsis historica, 1821–1994. Managua: Edición Jorge Eduardo Arellano.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anderson, Thomas P. 1971.Matanaza. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arthur, W. Brain. 1994.Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baloyra, Enrique A. 1982.El Salvador in Transition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bermann, Karl. 1986.Under the Big Stick: Nicaragua and the United States since 1848. Boston: South End Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bermeo, Nancy. 1990. “Rethinking Regime Change.”Comparative Politics 22: 359–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bingham, James Wesley. 1974. “Guatemalan Agriculture During the Administration of President Manuel Estrada Cabrera, 1898–1920.” Master's Thesis, Tulane University.

  • Black, George (with Milton Jamail and Norma Stoltz Chinchilla). 1984.Garrison Guatemala. New York: Monthly Review Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Booth, John A. 1985.The End and the Beginning: The Nicaraguan Revolution. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • — 1998.Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brand, Charles Abbey. 1972. “The Background to Capitalistic Underdevelopment: Honduras to 1913.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.

  • Browning, David. 1971.El Salyador: Landscape and Society. London: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cardoso, Ciro F. S. 1977. “The Formation of the Coffee Estate in Nineteenth-Century Costa Rica.” Pp. 165–202 inLand and Labour in Latin America, eds. Kenneth Duncan and Ian Rutledge (with the collaboration of Collin Harding). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Castro Sánchez, Silvia. 1990. “Estado, privatización de la tierra y conflictos agrarios.”Revista de Historia 21–22: 207–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Charlip, Julie A. 1995. “Cultivating Coffee: Farmers, Land and Money in Nicaragua, 1877–1930.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ching, Erik. 1998. “Patronage, Politics and Power in El Salvador, 1840–1940.” Book Manuscript.

  • 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.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunkerley, James. 1982.The Long War: Dictatorship and Revolution in El Salvador. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elam, Robert Varney. 1968. “Appeal to Arms: The Army and Politics in El Salvador, 1931–1964.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New Mexico.

  • Euraque, Darío A. 1997.Reinterpreting the Banana Republic: Region and State in Honduras, 1870–1972. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fernandez, Ilva. 1978. “Nicaragua: Estructura económico-social y política del régimen de Zelaya.” Licenciado Thesis, Universidad Centroamericana, Managua.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fischel, Astrid. 1990.Consenso y represión: Una interpretación socio-política de la educación costarricense. San José: Editorial Costa Rica.

    Google Scholar 

  • Galich, Manuel. 1994. “Causas internas de una derrota.” InLa revolución de Octubre: Diezaños de lucha por la democracia en Guatemala, 1944–1954, Tomo II, ed. Eduardo Antonio Velasquez Carrera. Guatemala: CEUR, Universidad de San Carlos.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gudmundson, Lowell. 1986.Costa Rica Before Coffee: Society and Economy on the Eve of the Export Boom. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gudmundson, Lowell and Héctor Lindo-Fuentes. 1995.Central America, 1821–1871: Liberalism Before Liberal Reform. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, Carolyn. 1991.El café y el desarrollo histórico-geográfico de Costa Rica. San José: Editorial Costa Rica.

    Google Scholar 

  • Handy, Jim. 1984.Gift of the Devil: A History of Guatemala. Boston: South End Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • —. 1994.Revolution in the Countryside: Rural Conflict and Agrarian Reform in Guatemala, 1944–1954. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Herrick, Thomas R. 1974.Desarrollo económico y político de Guatemala durante el periodo de Justo Rufino Barrios (1871–1885). Guatemala: EDUCA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hill, Roscoe R. 1933.Fiscal Intervention in Nicaragua. New York: Paul Maisel.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jonas, Susanne. 1991.The Battle for Guatemala: Rebels, Death Squads, and U.S. Power. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Karl, Terry Lynn. 1990. “Dilemmas of Democratization in Latin America.”Comparative Politics 23: 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kamman, William. 1968.A Search for Stability: United States Diplomacy toward Nicaragua, 1925–1933. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Karnes, Thomas L. 1961.The Failure of Union: Central America, 1824–1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kauck, David M. 1988. “Agricultural Commercialization and State Development in Central America: The Political Economy of the Coffee Industry from 1838 to 1940.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington.

  • Kepner, Charles David Jr. and Jay Henry Soothill. 1935.The Banana Empire: A Case Study of Economic Imperialism. New York: Russell & Russell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laínez, Vilma and Victor Meza. 1973. “El enclave bananero en la historia de Honduras.”Estudios Sociales Centroamericanos 5: 115–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lauria-Santiago, Aldo A. 1999.An Agrarian Republic: Commercial Agriculture and the Politics of Peasant Communities in El Salvador, 1823–1914. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lipset, Seymour Martin, and Stein Rokkan. 1967. “Cleavage Structures, Party Systems, and Voter Alignments: An Introduction.” Pp. 1–64 inParty Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives, eds. Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mahoney, James. 2000. “Path Dependence in Historical Sociology.”Theory and Society 29: 507–548.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mahoney, James. 2001.The Legacies of Liberalism: Path Dependence and Political Regimes in Central America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mahoney, James, and Richard Snyder. 1999. “Rethinking Agency and Structure in the Study of Regime Change.”Studies in Comparative International Development 34: 3–32.

    Google Scholar 

  • McClintock, Michael. 1985a.The American Connection, Volume I: State Terror and Popular Resistance in El Salvador. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • —. 1985b.The American Connection, Volume II: State Terror and Popular Resistance in El Salvador. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCreery, David. 1994.Rural Guatemala, 1760–1940. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Menjívar L., Rafael. 1980.Acumulación originaria y desarrollo del capitalismo en El Salvador. San José: EDUCA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Molina Chocano, Guillermo. 1976.Estado liberal y desarrollo capitalista en Honduras. Tegucigalpa: Banco Central de Honduras.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mollina Jiménez, Iván. 1991.Costa Rica (1800–1850): El legado colonial y la génesis del capitalismo. San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica.

    Google Scholar 

  • Montgomery, Tommie Sue. 1995.Revolution in El Salvador: From Civil Strife to Civil Peace. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moore, Barrington Jr. 1966.Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Boston: Beacon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Munck, Gerardo. 1994. “Democratic Transitions in Comparative Perspective.”Comparative Politics 26: 355–375.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Murga Frassinetti, Antonio. 1978.Enclave y sociedad en Honduras. Tegucigalpa: Editorial Universitaria.

    Google Scholar 

  • North, Douglas C. 1990.Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oberschall, Anthony, and Eric M. Leifer. 1986. “Efficiency and Social Institutions: Uses and Misuses of Economic Reasoning in Sociology.”Annual Review of Sociology 12: 233–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parkman, Patricia. 1988.Nonviolent Insurrection in El Salvador: The Fall of Maximiliano Hernández Martínez. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Paige, Jeffery M. 1997.Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pérez Brignoli, Héctor. 1989.A Brief History of Central America, translated by Ricardo B. Sawrey and Susana Stettri de Sawrey. Berkeley: University of California press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pierson, Paul. 2000. “Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics.”American Political Science Resview 94: 251–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pitti, Joseph Apolonio, 1975. “Jorge Ubico and Guatemalan Politics in the 1920s.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New Mexico.

  • Posas, Mario, and Rafael Del Cid. 1983.La construcción del sector público y del estado nacional en Honduras, 1876–1979. 2nd ed. San José: EDUCA, 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  • Quijano, Carlos. 1987.Nicaragua: Ensayo sobre el imperialismo de los Estados Unidos (1909–1927). Managua: Vanguardia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rodríguez, Mario. 1978.The Cádiz Experiment in Central America, 1808 to 1826. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ropp, Steve C. 1974. “The Honduran Army in the Sociopolitical Evolution of the Honduran State.”The Americas 30: 504–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenberg, Mark B. 1989. “Can Democracy Survive the Democrats?: From Transition to Consolidation in Honduras.” Pp. 40–59 inElections and Democracy, ed. John A. Booth and Mitchell A. Seligson. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rueschemeyer, Dietrich. 1986.Power and the Division of Labour. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, Evelyne Huber Stephens, and John D. Stephens. 1992.Capitalist Development and Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salas Víquez, José Antonio. 1977. “El liberalismo positivista en Costa Rica: La lucha entre ladinos e indígenas en Orosi, 1881–1884.”Revista de Historia 5: 187–217.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schulz, Donald E., and Deborah Sundloff Schulz. 1994.The United States, Honduras, and the Crisis in Central America. Boulder, CO: Westview.

    Google Scholar 

  • Solís Salazar, Edwin, and Carlos E. González Pacheco. 1991.El ejército en Costa Rica: Poder político, poder militar, 1821–1890. San José: Editorical Alma Mater.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stanley, William. 1996.The Protection Racket State: Elite Politics, Military Extortion, and Civil War in El Salvador. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stinchcombe, Arthur L. 1968.Constructing Social Theories. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stokes, William S. 1950.Honduras: An Area Study in Government. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taracena Arriola, Arturo. 1993. “Liberalismo y poder político en centroamérica (1870–1929).” InHistoria general de centroamérica: Las repúblicas agroexportadoras (1870–1945), Vol. 4, ed. Victor Hugo Acuña Ortega. Madrid: Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario.

    Google Scholar 

  • Teplitz, Benjamin I. 1973. “The Political and Economic Foundations of Modernization in Nicaragua: The Administration of José Santos Zelaya 1893–1909.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Howard University.

  • Thelen, Kathleen. 1999. “Historical Institutionalism and Comparative Politics.”Annual Review of Political Science 2: 369–404.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Valenzuela, José Reina and Mario Argueta. 1978.Marco Aurelio Soto: Reforma liberal de 1876. Tegucigalpa: Banco Central de Honduras.

    Google Scholar 

  • Walter, Knut. 1993.The Regime of Anastasio Somoza 1936–1956. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wheelock Román, Jaime. 1975.Imperialismo y dictadura: Crisis de una formación social. México: Siglo Veintiuno Editores.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, Robert G. 1994.States and Social Evolution: Coffee and the Rise of National Governments in Central America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, Philip J. and Knut Walter. 1997.Militarization and Demilitarization in El Salvador's Transition to Democracy. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, Everett Alan. 1970. “The Crisis of National Integration in El Salvador, 1919–1935.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Stanford University.

  • Wilson, Bruce M. 1998.Costa Rica: Politics. Economics, and Democracy. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodward, Ralph Lee Jr. 1965. “Economic and Social Origins of the Guatemalan Political Parties (1773–1823).”Hispanic American Historical Review 45: 544–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • — Jr. 1985.Central America: A Nation Divided. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • — 1991. “The Aftermath of Independence, 1821-c. 1870.” Pp. 1–36 inCentral America Since Independence, ed. Leslie Bethell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yashar, Deborah J. 1997.Demanding Democracy: Reform and Reaction in Costa Rica and Guatemala, 1870s–1950s. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Authors

Additional information

James Mahoney is assistant professor of sociology at Brown University. He is the author ofThe Legacies of Liberalism: Path Dependence and Political Regimes in Central America (2001). His current research focuses on long-run development and the legacy of Spanish colonialism in Latin America.

For helpful comments and criticisms on an earlier draft, I would like to thank David Collier, Gerardo L. Munck, and the anonymous referees.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mahoney, J. Path-Dependent Explanations of Regime Change: Central America in Comparative Perspective. St Comp Int Dev 36, 111–141 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02687587

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02687587

Keywords

Navigation