Politics Faculty

Kent H Eaton
  • Title
    • Distinguished Professor of Politics
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Politics Department
  • Affiliations Merrill College, Latin American & Latino Studies, Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas, Environmental Studies Department
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Crown College Faculty Wing, 222
  • Office Hours Spring 2024: Wednesday 12-2 pm on Zoom (or in person by appointment)
  • Mail Stop Merrill/Crown Faculty Services
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Latin American and Latino Studies, Comparative Politics, Political Science, Politics
  • Courses Politics 60: Introduction to Comparative Politics, Politics 100: Indigenous Mobilization in Latin America, Politics 140c: Latin American Politics, Politics 144: Politics in the Andes, Politics 147: Territorial Conflict: Politics in Divided Societies, Politics 190v: States in the Global South, Politics 200c: States and Political Institutions, Politics 200d: Political Economy, Politics 243: Comparative Methods

Research Interests

Kent Eaton's research examines the interplay between politics and territory, focusing on the territorial (re)organization of states in the world today.  His work explores how territorial interests and identities impact political outcomes -- including democracy, development and security -- and how political conflict in turn shapes the logic of territorial institutions. Specializing in comparative politics, Prof. Eaton's current projects include the design and performance of federal institutions, the causes and consequences of decentralization, and the formation and evolution of movements for territorial autonomy. Beginning in 1990 he has conducted field research in a number of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay.

Biography, Education and Training

Stanford University, B.A. International Relations, 1990

Yale University, Ph.D. Political Science, 1998

Honors, Awards and Grants

Daniel Elazar Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Political Science Association (2021)


Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Fellowship (2015)


UCSC Division of Social Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award (2008)


Selected Publications

"Mayors Unchecked: Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of Local Autonomy in Latin American Municipalities," with Tomas Dosek, Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming 2024


"Decentralization and Criminal Gangs in El Salvador: Impacts on Municipal Finances and Local Economic Development," with José Larios and Silvana Huanqui, Journal of Development Studies, forthcoming 2024


"Autonomy in the Pursuit of Peace: Negotiating Territorial Accommodation in Indonesia and the Philippines," with Sarah Shair-Rosenfield, Peacebuilding, forthcoming 2024


"Multilevel Governance and the External Strategies of Subnational Governments in Latin America," Regional & Federal Studies 33(3) 2022: 353-73


“Interconnected Multilevel Governance: Regional Governments in Europe and Beyond,” with Arjan Schakel, Regional & Federal Studies 33(3) 2022: 255-75


"Territorial Peace without Territorial Governments: The Centralizing Logic of the 2016 Colombian Peace Accord," Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 16(2) 2021: 194-208 


"Bogotá's Left Turn: Counter-Neoliberalization in Colombia," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 44(1) 2020: 1-17


"Latin American Politics and the Subnational Comparative Method," Latin American Politics and Society 62(3) 2020: 149-72


"Self-rule vs. Shared Rule: The Design and Evolution of Federal Institutions in Colombia," Perspectives on Federalism 12(3) 2020: 1-26


"Politics across Territory in Latin America," Latin American Research Review 54(2) 2019: 532-9


"Federalism vs. Decentralization in Latin America," Fifty Shades of Federalism, 2018


Territory and Ideology in Latin America: Policy Conflicts between National and Subnational Governments (Oxford University Press, 2017)  Chapter 1


"Subnational Authoritarianism and Democratization in Colombia: Divergent Paths in Cesar and Magdalena," with Juan Diego Prieto, in Tina Hilgers and Laura Macdonald, eds., Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean (Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 153-172.


"Challenges of Party Building in the Bolivian East," in Steven Levitsky, James Loxton, Brandon Van Dyck and Jorge Dominguez, eds., Challenges of Party Building in Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 383-411. 


"When Clients Become Patrons: Teachers, Mayors, and the Transformation of Clientelism in Colombia," with Cristopher Chambers-Ju, in Diego Abente Brun and Larry Diamond, eds., Clientelism, Social Policy, and the Quality of Democracy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), pp. 88-113.


"Recentralization and the Left Turn in Latin America: Diverging Outcomes in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela," Comparative Political Studies 47 (8) 2014: 1130-57 


"The Centralism of '21st Century Socialism': Recentralising Politics in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia," Journal of Latin American Studies 45 (3) 2013: 421-450


"Latin America's Resurgent Center: National Government Strategies after Decentralization," with Tyler Dickovick, Journal of Development Studies 49 (11) 2013: 1453-1466


"Conservative Autonomy Movements: Territorial Dimensions of Ideological Conflict in Bolivia and Ecuador,” Comparative Politics 43 (3) 2011: 291-310


“Subnational Economic Nationalism?: The Contradictory Effects of Decentralization in Peru,” Third World Quarterly 31 (7) 2010: 1205-1222


"Paradoxes of Police Reform: Federalism, Parties and Civil Society in Argentina’s Public Security Crisis,” Latin American Research Review 43 (3) August 2008: 5-32


"Federalism in Europe and Latin America: Conceptualization, Causes and Consequences,” World Politics 60 (1) July 2008: 665-698


"Backlash in Bolivia: Regional Autonomy as a Reaction against Indigenous Mobilization,” Politics and Society 35 (1) 2007: 71-102


“The Downside of Decentralization: Armed Clientelism in Colombia,” Security Studies 15 (4) 2006: 1-30


“Decentralization’s Non-Democratic Roots: Authoritarianism and Subnational Reform in South America,” Latin American Politics and Society 48 (1) 2006: 1-26


The Political Economy of Decentralization Reforms: Implications for Aid Effectiveness, with Kai Kaiser and Paul Smoke (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2010)


Politics beyond the Capital: The Design of Subnational Institutions in South America (Stanford University Press, 2004)


Politicians and Economic Reform in New Democracies: Argentina and the Philippines in the 1990s (Penn State University Press, 2002), part 1, part 2, and part 3

Selected Recordings

"Es importante la descentralización para la democracia y el desarrollo?" Universidad Católica del Uruguay, December 5, 2023


"Was Decentralization a Mistake in Latin America?: Reflections After Thirty Years" Harvard University, November 1, 2022


"Democratic Backsliding at the Subnational Level: South America, the U.S., and Beyond" American University, February 16, 2023