Theory and Society

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 351–382 | Cite as

Divergent trajectories of democratic deepening: comparing Brazil, India, and South Africa

  • Patrick HellerEmail author


This article argues that democratic deepening is shaped by shifting civil society-state relations that can only be understood by disaggregating democratic deepening into its component parts of participation, representation, and stateness. This frame is used to explore the divergent democratic trajectories of Brazil, India, and South Africa. Through the examples of local government transformation and social movement mobilization, I argue that a “project” civil society in Brazil has deepened democracy and transformed the state. In contrast, in South Africa and India civil society is increasingly being subordinated to political society. In South Africa, an active civil society has largely been sidelined as a politically consequential actor (containerization) and in India much of civil society has been fragmented and instrumentalized (involution).


Civil society Democracy Inequality Local government Social movements State 



I am grateful to Peter Evans, Andreas Wimmer, Chris Gibson, Pauline Jones-Luong, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Elizabeth Wood, Archon Fung, Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Marcelo Silva, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Ashutosh Varshney for their comments and thoughts.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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