Over the last decade or so, North American and European scholars have popularised a research focus on new social movements, or so-called autonomous and democratic struggles generated from within civil society against the state. The underlying theoretical premise of this approach is that challenges to the state from social movements are a principal driving force of political change in modern society. Despite its grounding in the advanced capitalist context, many Latin American scholars have found elective affinity with the argument, as evidenced in the recent tidal wave of studies on social movements by Latin Americanists. Basing their work primarily on analyses of Brazil, Argentina and Chile, scholars have argued that social movements help challenge the legitimacy and political power of strong and centralised governments in Latin America, at the same time creating from the grassroots a political culture suggestive of democratic transformation. In sort, there is growing consensus that social movements play a central role in bringing democracy to Latin America.