This course is designed to introduce students to the political systems, politics and society of Latin America. It includes an overview of the region as a whole with analysis and study both of specific countries (Mexico, Brazil, Colombia…) and of cross-cutting issues (external dependence and regionalization, social and racial inequalities, democratization and the role of the various oligarchies, the role of religion and relations with the US and Europe).
Politics in Latin America cannot be summed up in a single way. The region, after all, is extremely diverse with more than 25 countries stretching from the Caribbean to the Tierra del Fuego, a large number of indigenous languages, ethnic identities and cultures, with authoritarian and democratic regimes, as well as cultures and mentalities that are far apart between them – from the Caribbean coast to the rainforest and from the Argentine pampa to the Peruvian altiplano.
In the meantime, countless historical episodes, pivotal moments, and entrenched interests are rising and subsiding. There are, however, some peculiarities that are generally unique to the region: a history of military domination and blatant human rights violations, harsh inequalities, a tendency to be watchful to, and at the same time attracted, by the US. The course explores some of these important issues, their history and heritage in the light of today’s reality. Our approach will be a mixture of comparative and historical analysis with due regard to international relations and political economy. We also look at the performance of the Latin American democracies. Do they incorporate previously excluded social groups? Do they reduce poverty, inequality and corruption? Are they able to resolve violent conflicts and, if yes, how? Do they deal with organized crime? Has the fact that a significant number of women have been elected presidents changed the situation?
We will use both theoretical explanations for the overall political and economic phenomenon, such as economic growth, democratization (and the collapse of democracy), social movements and revolutions, and new analyzes of the region’s role on the international stage.
Structure and organization of the course
The organization of the course, which does not require prior knowledge of Latin America, is as follows:
1. We begin with a historical, geopolitical and geographical overview of Latin America: knowledge of the past and its context is essential to understanding the present. We will identify and try to explain common features and processes in the birth and development of countries and their role in the regional context and international relations.
2. Then, in order to get a different perspective from our previous analysis, you will read either a personal testimony or a novel (you will choose from a relevant catalog) and prepare a three-page text that will reflect something you have learned about Latin American policy from reading. I will ask some volunteers to present their thoughts to the rest of the class.
3. Next, we will spend several weeks focusing on specific topics, taking as an example specific country in the region. In this part, we will cover specific countries (including Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Cuba) and specific topics (including the role of religion, the presence of the military, the promotion of ethnic policies, the rise of civil society, land reform and land ownership, political and economic violence, and the US presence). In each issue we will delve into one or two countries. In addition to their other assignments, students will set up study groups to delve into specific countries, preparing a research paper (10-12 pages) in which you will discuss the challenges facing the country today, its future role and its international presence. The result is presented and discussed in class.
Series of lectures
1. Introduction – geographical, historical and geopolitical context
2. The heritage of the colonial period
3. The era of aristocratic democracy and the rise of the caudillos – the formation of national identities in the 19th and 20th centuries and external dependence
4. Revolutions and upheavals: Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua
5. Populism and neo-populism: Peronism in Argentina
6. Army and Politics – The Dark Decade and Dictatorships: Chile and Uruguay
7. Violence as a political tool and as a substitute for the state: Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador
8. The role of the Church – from the theology of liberation to Pope Francisco
9. Political institutions and governance – the importance of the presidential system, political parties and the fragmentation of the political system
10. The peoples – Ethnic, economic and class inequalities
11. The patria grande – pan-Americanism and division. Unification efforts and the role of regional organizations
12. The emergence of civil society
13. Latin America on the international stage
• Bulmer-Thomas, Victor (2004), The Economic History of Latin America since Independence, Cambridge University Press: New York.
• Leslie Bethell (ed.), Latin America since 1930: Economy, Society and Politics, Cambridge University Press: New York.
• Susan Eckstein, ed. Power and Popular Protest: Latin American Social Movements, University of California Press.
• Linz, Juan J. and Alfred Stepan (Eds.) (1978) The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Latin America, Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.
• Hagopian, Frances and Scott Mainwaring, (Eds.) (2005) The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America: Advances and Setbacks, Cambridge University Press: New York.
• Smith, Peter H. (2011), Democracy in Latin America: Political Change in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press: New York.
• Cardoso, Fernando H. and Enzo Faletto (1979), Dependency and Development in Latin America, University of California Press
• Madrid, Raúl. L. 2012. The Rise of Ethnic Politics in Latin America. New York, Cambridge University Press.
• Scott Mainwaring and Aníbal Pérez-Liñán, Democracies and Dictatorships in Latin America: Emergence, Survival and Fall (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013)
• Acemoglu, Daron and James Robinson (2012), Why Nations Fail, Crown Publishers: New York
• Leslie Bethel, ed. Mexico Since Independence, Cambridge University Press: New York.
• Cuba: A Short History, Leslie Bethell, Ed. Cambridge University Press: New York.
• Paige, Jeffery (1998) Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America, Harvard University Press: Cambridge
• Wood, Elisabeth J. (2001), "An Insurgent Path to Democracy: Popular Mobilization, Economic Interests and Regime Transition in South Africa and El Salvador." Comparative Political Studies, 34(8), pp. 862-888.
• Bushnell, David (1993), The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself, University of California Press
• Stepan, Alfred (Ed.) (1973) Authoritarian Brazil, Yale University Press: New Haven.
• Valenzuela, Arturo (1978) The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Chile, Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.
• Karl, Terry (1990), “Dilemmas of Democratization in Latin America.” Comparative Politics, 23(1): pp. 1-21.
• Drake, Paul W. (2009), Between Tyranny and Anarchy: A History of Democracy in Latin America, 1800-2006, Stanford University Press: Stanford.
• Coatsworth, John H. (2008) "Inequality, Institutions, and Economic Growth in Latin America,” Journal of Latin American Studies, 40: 545-569.
• Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson (2006), Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, Cambridge University Press: New York.
• Levitsky, Steven and Kenneth M. Roberts, (Eds.) (2011) The Resurgence of the Latin American Left, Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.
• Fitch, Samuel. 1998. The Armed Forces and Democracy in Latin America. John Hopkins University Press.
• Burgos-Debray, Elisabeth. 1987. I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala New York: Verso, 1987.
• Weyland, K., R. Madrid, et al., eds. 2010. Leftist Governments in Latin America: Successes and Shortcomings. New York, Cambridge University Press.
• Guillermo O’Donnell, Bureaucratic Authoritarianism: Argentina 1966-1973 in Comparative Perspective (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988)
• Francisco Panizza. (ed), Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, (London:Verso, 2005),
• Alex E. Fernández Jilberto and Bargara Hogenboom (eds.) Latin America Facing China: South-South Relations beyond the Washington Consensus, (New York: Bergahn Books: 2010)
• Peter H. Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Latin America, the United States and the World, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
• tin America. Latin American Politics and Society, Volume 50: 1
• Paul Cammack , The Resurgence of Populism in Latin America, Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 19, No. 2, Special Issue: Old and New Populism in Latin America (Apr., 2000), pp. 149-161.
• Alejandro Portes and Kelly Hoffman, Latin American Class Structures: Their Composition and Change during the Neoliberal Era, Latin American Research Review, Vol. 38, No. 1 (2003), pp. 41-82.
• Monica Barczak, Representation by Consultation? The Rise of Direct Democracy in Latin America, Latin American Politics and Society, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 37-59
• Jean Grugel and Pia Riggirozzi, ‘Neoliberal Disruption and Neoliberalism’s Afterlife in Latin America: What’s Left of Post-Neoliberalism?’, Critical social policy: a journal of theory and practice in social welfare. Volume 38: Number 3 (2018); pp 547-56
• Edwards, Sebastian. 2010. Left Behind. Latin America and the False Promise of Populism. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
• Mainwaring, Scott (1990), "Presidentialism in Latin America", Latin American Research Review, 25(1): 157-179.
• O’Donnell, Guillermo (1994), “Delegative Democracy,” Journal of Democracy, 5(1).