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Preface to the 2002 Edition ________ Guillermo O'Donnell THE UNIVERSITY of Notre Dame Press should be congratulated for its decision to reissue this remarkable book. Shaping the Political Arena follows the best Weberian tradition of historical political sociology, in several senses. In one of these senses, which will be immediately obvious to the reader, this book displays encyclopedic knowledge and the skillful uti­ lization of a huge and varied literature. In a second sense, the Colliers have a broad-macro-and very im­ portant question: What were the patterns, and the consequences, of the incorporation of labor (basically, urban labor) into the national arenas of politics of Latin America?1 The authors trace these consequences in rela­ tion both to labor and, no less importantly, to the overall characteristics of the political regimes and more generally of the societies that emerged during and after (and, as they show, partly as a result of) the political in­ corporation of labor in Latin America. In a third sense, as Weber did, this book uses a rather wide array of causal factors without reducing its explanations to any of them. Yet this is not intellectually undisciplined eclecticism: these factors are carefully sorted out and assessed in each case and across cases. Fourth, and related to the preceding remark, I found it particularly pleasurable, as I did in Weber's Economy and Society, to "watch" the au­ thors of Shaping the Political Arena move in each step of their analysis with clear-and explicit-self-consciousness of their methodology. In many passages of their book, the Colliers do us the important service of pointing out what they believe are the scope, the possible robustness, and the likely limitations of their findings and arguments. In fact, I have found this methodological self-consciousness extremely useful both for my own work and for my teaching-it is nice, and indeed helpful, to watch very good minds carefully telling us about the rationale of the con­ ceptual and empirical steps they are taking. Fifth, because the Colliers have a theoretical framework backed by impressive research, they come out with a series of hypotheses and con1 Always mindful of the need to offer clear definitions, the authors consider incorpo­ ration as the "first sustained and at least partially successful attempt by the state to legiti­ mate and shape an institutionalized labor movement" (p. 161). x SHAPING THE POLITICAL ARENA clusions that add enormously to our knowledge not only of labor but also of political processes-broadly understood-in Latin America. A book of this scope and complexity invites various uses and readings. Mine, as implied above, is that of the study of a complex collective actor by means of a theoretical framework that moves both through time (trac­ ing the history of the respective labor movements in eight countries) and by means of "horizontal" comparisons. The main comparisons are of cases that are paired by means of similarities in certain factors that the theory indicates as particularly relevant. Some of these pairings are coun­ terintuitive, and certainly they would not have been generated had the questions posed been different from the ones of this book; for example, it took me some time and several discussions with the authors until I fully understood-and agreed with-the pairing of two cases, Brazil and Chile, that in many other respects are very different, as the Colliers themselves emphasize. Here, as usual in these procedures, the proof of the pudding is in the eating: as the reader will notice, these pairings highlight important similarities, both in the process of labor incorporation and in the over­ all consequences they generated. Furthermore, these procedures are dis­ ciplined by the innovative and conceptually powerful typologies that the authors elaborate on the relationships between the labor movement on one side, and the various kinds of incorporation effected by the state and political parties, on the other. The book moves analytically back and forth between histories of each case, told in considerable detail and with remarkable knowledge, and comparisons that are apposite because they are anchored in similarities that areshown to be theoretically relevant and empirically useful. This, as noted above, is comparative historical (political) sociology at its best. It is extremely difficult and time consuming to do this well, and its product­ the present book-well deserves the attentive reading it demands. Notice what, in my reading (and, I take it, in the intention of the authors), this book accomplishes. To begin with, it...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780268077105
Related ISBN
9780268017729
MARC Record
OCLC
966859884
Pages
904
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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