This article proposes a critical review of the two main types of approaches which have been used to examine the political involvement of the Latin American Catholic Church in recent years: the "institutional" approach, which gives a central importance to the organizational dimensions of church activation; and the "people-ascendant" view, for which the political involvement of the church is the result of pressure from its grass roots. Focusing primarily upon the situation in Brazil, and to a lesser extent El Salvador and Nicaragua, we conclude that the institutional approach offers a significantly better understanding of the changes which have taken place and are currently under way in Latin America. Nevertheless, we suggest that the approach needs to be fundamentally retooled, as it has not proved useful in identifying and assessing the strength of social movements working both on behalf of and now, in many cases, against church activation. To this end, the paper concludes with an appeal for further research on the resource mobilization approach and the role it may serve in enhancing the scope and explanatory parameters of the institutional perspective.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/08263663.1996.10816746
Journal Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Citation
Daudelin, J, & Hewitt, W.E. (W. E.). (1996). Approaches to studying churches and politics in Latin America: A review and critical assessment. Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies (Vol. 21, pp. 311–337). doi:10.1080/08263663.1996.10816746