Encarnacion makes the controversial argument that a strong civil society and social capital are not necessary to enhance either democratization or the stability of a new democracy. Tracing the development of the concept "civil society," he argues that what matters are the political institutions existing in a state and the strategies and decisions of political leaders. The importance of these are examined through careful case studies of Brazil, where a strong civil society was not critical in the transition to democracy and has not led to a robust democracy, and Spain, where a weak civil society neither prevented the transition nor strong democratic institutions.

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