Rethinking Democratic Governance: State Building, Autonomy, and Accountability in Correa’s Ecuador

James David Bowen


This paper argues that rather than theorize state building and democracy separately, we should direct our attention to studying the dual construction of democratic states. To do so, we must understand the contradictory relationship between the concentration of power needed to build state institutions and the constraints on this power dictated by the norms of liberal democracy. I present an outline for studying state building and democratic governance and illustrate my argument with a study of Ecuador. I argue that stable democracy must rest on three pillars: effective state institutions, the autonomy of these institutions from other powerful actors, and the existence of meaningful institutions of accountability. The challenge is that efforts to strengthen one or more of these pillars are likely to undermine the others. I argue that Ecuador, particularly under the Correa administration, has experienced substantial achievements in the area of institution building, has a mixed record with regards to autonomy, and offers little in the way of accountability.

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