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The Americas 61.2 (2004) 335-336

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Latin America in the 21st Century. Toward a New Sociopolitical Matrix. By Manuel Antonio Garretón, Marcelo Cavarozzi, Peter S. Cleaves, Gary Gereffi, and Jonathan Hartlyn. Miami FL: North-South Center Press/University of Miami, 2003. Pp. iv, 148. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $17.95 paper.

Although it contains only 100 pages of text, this book covers a surprising amount of ground in its analysis of contemporary Latin American political life in the context of economic globalization. It constitutes the product of a decade of discussion among its five authors: three political scientists (Marcelo Cavarozzi of the Universidad Nacional de San Martín in Buenos Aires; Peter Cleaves from the Swiss foundation AVINA; and Jonathan Hartlyn of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and two sociologists (Manuel Antonio Garretón from the Universidad de Chile; and Gary Gereffi of Duke University). Its six chapters exhibit an unusually consistent focus for a work that resulted from so many pairs of hands at the keyboard.

From the outset, the authors reject high-level generalization based upon the "grand paradigms" such as development, revolution, or democratization that analysts have so often used to frame an understanding of Latin America around a "central challenge." They argue, "scholars must abandon the notion that a single paradigm of causal relationships somehow exists" (p. iii). Instead, they sensibly advocate interrelated, historically-grounded, middle-level hypotheses, although their concept of the sociopolitical matrix remains somewhat illusive—"relationships among the state, a structure for representation . . . and a socioeconomic base of social actors with cultural orientations and relations . . . all mediated institutionally by the political regime" (p. 2).

Following an able, highly succinct survey of the "statist-national-popular sociopolitical matrix" that prevailed among the major countries of Latin America from the 1930s to the 1980s, this study examines the region's contemporary circumstances, repeatedly emphasizing the tensions existing between the specific national needs of Latin American countries and "the neoliberal project to construct a market-driven matrix" to govern public life (p. 94). Chapters cover the new modes of operation of market forces in Latin America and the emergence of democratic procedures and institutions that have taken place since the early 1980s. Social changes and matters of cultural diversity also occupy its attention. The book's disciplined conceptual focus makes up in part for an absence of in-depth coverage. Chapter 3, the best in the volume, offers an excellent treatment of globalization, combining a sound encapsulation of structural changes in the world economy with an analysis of their impact upon Latin America. While the new economic policies of the last quarter century have remedied many of the protectionist mistakes of the past, the authors argue that Latin America's experience with globalization "remains highly problematic," leaving the region with few technology-intensive exports, high and growing levels of inequality in income distribution, and "deep national and regional economic asymmetries" (p. 38). [End Page 335]

While far from acting as nostalgic nationalists, the five social scientists who wrote this volume ultimately contend that neoliberalism has failed to create a viable Latin American political economy, leaving the countries of the region in varying degrees of "decomposition and drift" (p. 98). As yet, they argue, "Latin America has not consciously confronted its future and remains some distance from defining an effective new model of development" (p. 46). Unless Latin American democracies can craft effective national economic policies that meet national needs under the conditions of economic globalization, the authors fear a resulting loss of democratic legitimacy and an increase in social and political instability.

This short volume inevitably omits many relevant matters—issues of gender, urbanization, labor migration, and post-Cold War relations with the United States, for example. Given the book's size, the authors should not be faulted for this unavoidable defect. However, like many works containing the word "toward" in their title, this one does disappoint with its sketchy conclusion. The final chapter requires a deeper exploration of the implications of the book's findings and a more extensive...


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