The past thirty years in Latin America have produced tremendous transformations of the state’s role in society, both in the scope of its activities and the extent of its presence. Sometimes this has led to the state’s unprecedented expansion into the far reaches of economic and social life, other times to its retreat from direct institutional presence in favor of indirect market-mediated linkages to society. The impact of these transformations on associational life and the quality of political participation has to some extent been obscured in recent scholarly work on democratic transition and consolidation, important as these issues are.There is an extensive literature that examines the ways in which the institutional organization of democracy shapes the stability and character of post-transition politics. See, for example, Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996); Juan Linz, “The Perils of Presidentialism.” Journal of Democracy 1 (1990), and contributions to Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully, eds., Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); and Jorge Domínguez and Abraham Lowenthal, eds. Constructing Democratic Governance: Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1990s (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996). This paper explores how the transformations in the deeper “structural linkages” between state and society have affected political organization and mobilization in rural Brazil and Chile. In so doing, we contend that institutions not normally seen as central to democratic politics are in fact crucial to understanding political participation and mobilization.