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Reviewed by:
  • Latin America Transformed: Globalization and Modernity
  • Peadar Kirby
Robert N. Gwynne and Cristóbal Kay, eds. Latin America Transformed: Globalization and Modernity, 2nd edition. London: Arnold, 2004. Photographs, maps, figures, tables, bibliography, index, 316 pp; paperback.

At the beginning of this book, the editors point to the disciplinary fragmentation that has characterized contemporary Latin American studies over the past two decades. Disciplines such as political science, economics, sociology, geography, and cultural studies have been dominated by concerns that often seemed to advert to one another only in passing, if at all. To offer a more holistic analysis of the region's transformation over this period, the editors adopt in this volume a "political economy approach" that "consciously tries to integrate political, economic, social and geographical phenomena" (3). Aware, however, that political economy approaches can often devote insufficient attention to the social impact of the changing relationships of state and market, the editors complement that approach with a four-chapter section titled "Space, Society and Livelihoods." As a result, the book offers a rare integration of the macro and the micro, combining analysis of the structural shifts that mark a new phase in the region's development (the neoliberal model, as they call it) with a detailed examination of livelihood strategies at grassroots level, both urban and rural. In doing this, the book provides a rich synthesis throughout its 13 chapters of a wide range of up-to-date scholarship on Latin America that makes it invaluable to students of the region, but also very useful to scholars who seek an authoritative, balanced, yet critical overview of the bigger picture.

This being a second edition, the reviewer is inevitably invited to make comparisons with the first edition, published in 1999. The feature that immediately strikes one is the new cover. With its photograph of a Cuzqueña street breadseller, the cover of the first edition emphasized tradition and continuity that seemed to belie the book's contents. The cover of this new edition could not be more different; its striking photograph of the spire of Santiago Cathedral mirrored in the windows of an adjacent glass-fronted block expresses far better the nature and impact of the transformations being wrought by the twin and interlinked processes of modernization and globalization.

Extensive changes in the contents also improve the book's focus and coverage of these phenomena, not least through the attempts of many authors to give more distinct substance to the concept of globalization [End Page 123]itself. In the first edition, globalization often seemed to be treated as if it were synonymous with neoliberalism.

Equally significant is the new structure of the book. The 7 parts, into which 12 chapters were grouped in the first edition, have now been reduced to 4, grouping 13 chapters. This gives greater coherence to the topics treated. Part 1, "Globalization and Modernity," contains 6 chapters, characterized largely by a political economy approach (though Jorge Larraín's chapter on cultural change sits uneasily here). This part contains one new chapter on the urban revolution by Alan Gilbert and a chapter on the political economy of sustainable development by Warwick E. Murray and Eduardo Silva, which combines what were two chapters in the first edition.

Part 2, on "Political Transformations," contains two chapters, as it did in the first edition. The four chapters in part 3, on "Space, Society and Livelihoods," are the book's greatest improvement. Chapter 9, by Anthony Bebbington, on livelihood transitions and place transformations, is a new chapter, and its approaches to conceptualizing livelihoods give a unity and coherence to this part of the book. The other three chapters, by Sarah A. Radcliffe on civil society, Sylvia Chant on urban livelihoods, and Cristóbal Kay on rural livelihoods, all extensively rewritten for this edition, now form a much more coherent whole (though I must admit to wondering whether Chant's chapter would not be better situated in part 2). A chapter on cities, capitalism, and neoliberal regimes by Colin Clarke and David Howard has been dropped from the second edition. Part 4 consists of a newly written chapter by the editors on alternatives to neoliberalism, which rounds off the book...


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pp. 123-128
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2007
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