Document Type


Publication Date



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science


Why has protest participation seemingly exploded across much of Latin America in recent years? How do individual- and country-level characteristics interact to explain the rise of contentious politics in countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela? I contend that the recent wave of protests in Latin America is the result of trends in community engagement and institutional development across the region's young democracies. Specifically, I argue that low-quality institutions in democratic regimes push an increasingly large number of civically active Latin Americans toward more radical modes of political participation, as governments’ abilities to deliver on citizens’ expectations fail to match the capacity for mobilization of active democrats. Drawing on cross-national surveys of Latin America, I test this argument, finding that an interactive relationship between community engagement and ineffective political institutions helps explain the recent spike in protest activity in certain cases and the vast differences in protest participation observed throughout the region.

Source Citation

Moseley, M. W. (2015). Contentious Engagement: Understanding Protest Participation in Latin American Democracies. Journal of Politics in Latin America, 7(3), 3–48.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.