Radical, Reformist and Aborted Liberalism: Origins of National Regimes in Central America 1
JAMES MAHONEY Assistant Professor a1 a1 Department of Sociology, Brown University
During the twentieth century, the countries of Central America were
characterised by remarkably different political regimes: military-authoritarianism
in Guatemala and El Salvador, progressive democracy in Costa Rica and
traditional-authoritarianism in Honduras and Nicaragua. This article explains
these contrasting regime outcomes by exploring the agrarian and state-building
reforms pursued by political leaders during the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century
liberal reform period. Based on differences in the transformation of state
and class structures, three types of liberalism are identified: radical liberalism in
Guatemala and El Salvador, reformist liberalism in Costa Rica and aborted
liberalism in Honduras and Nicaragua. It is argued that these types of liberalism
set the Central American countries on contrasting paths of political development,
culminating in diverse regime outcomes.
1 For helpful comments and criticisms on earlier drafts of this article, I would like to
thank José Itzigsohn, Kenneth Shadlen, Richard Snyder and the anonymous JLAS reviewers.