World Politics

Review Article

Rethinking State and Regime: Southern Europe's Transition to Democracy

Robert M. Fishmana1*

a1 Harvard University

Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead, eds., Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Southern Europe. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, 212 pp.

Richard Gunther, Giacomo Sani, and Goldie Shabad, Spain after Franco: The Making of a Competitive Party System. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986, 516 pp.

Walter C. Opello, Portugal's Political Development: A Comparative Approach. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985, 235 pp.


The historical clustering of the transitions to democracy of Spain, Portugal, and Greece—all having taken place in the mid-1970s—encourages scholars to search for common causes, patterns, and paths of development. But important differences remain between the cases. Analytical distinctions include the difference between state and regime, and the contrast between regime crises of failure and crises of historical obsolescence. These distinctions make it possible to delineate divergent causes, actors, trajectories, and outcomes for the three cases of redemocratization.

Robert M. Fishman is Associate Professor of Government and of Social Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of Working Class Organization and the Return to Democracy in Spain (1990) and is currently studying the changing relations between labor and intellectuals in Western Europe, and the political aftermath of failed revolutionary attempts. During 1989–1990, he is a Visiting Research Associate at the Center for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Juan March Institute, Madrid.

* For helpful comments on an earlier draft of this essay I thank Jose Alvarez Junco, H. E. Chehabi, Jeff Goodwin, Peter Hall, Juan Linz, Ted Perlmutter, Edward Robbins, Theda Skocpol, Basilios Tsingos, and members of the CROPSO seminar, Harvard University.