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Christian Base Communities and the Building of Democracy: Brazil and Chile

James C. Cavendish
Sociology of Religion
Vol. 55, No. 2 (Summer, 1994), pp. 179-195
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3711856
Page Count: 17
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Christian Base Communities and the Building of Democracy: Brazil and Chile
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Abstract

Among the most significant phenomena in recent South American history are the transitions from authoritarian rule to democracy in Brazil (1985), Argentina (1982-1983), Uruguay (1985), Bolivia (1982), and Chile (1990). The intent of this article is to analyze the influence of Christian base communities (or CEBs, from the Spanish comunidades eclesiales de base) on the two stages of democratic transition in Brazil and Chile: (1) the transition in political regimes and (2) the consolidation of democracy. This article begins by discussing basic concepts employed by analysts of democratic transitions, and then reviews the literature that has related to religion to democracy. Drawing upon the literature concerned with the role of CEBs in democratic transition and consolidation, I then summarize how CEBs - both as organizations and as bearers of political values - have fostered the development of democracy. The conclusions, based on my preliminary observation of CEB activity in Chile and on recent empirical studies, suggest that while base communities continue to encourage democratic values and practices, their future role in this area is likely to diminish.

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