Despite his qualified conclusions, Charles W. Anderson has made a most valuable contribution to understanding the multifaceted nature of both political and economic institutions in ten of the Latin American countries—and by implication the related paradoxes in the remainder of them. He hopes that the societies south of the Rio Grande will opt for pluralistic, democratic socioeconomic reforms which will enable the preindustrial sectors of the various nations to take more part in the political and economic processes of nation-building. At the same time, he emphasizes quite correctly that even if change is wrought by revolution this very concept implies for most Latin Americans “constructive development within a democratic framework.” What follows is even more significant: “In the majority of such cases, it is less likely that the Latin Americans involved will have ‘gone to extremes’ than that fear born of ignorance will cause well-meaning North Americans to ‘go to extremes’ in their interpretation of the situation” (p. 380).

Anderson finds no consistent correlation between his three classifications of political regimes (Conventional, Reformist, and Revolutionary) in the Central American and Andean countries and the degree of economic development which has been achieved in the last two decades, except perhaps that there has been more direct private investment from the U.S. in those countries following the Conventional or Military-Conventional approach. In any case, he maintains that for the ten nations covered in his study the postwar epoch was hardly one of profound policy revolution. As he says, “despite significant advances in economic development in many countries in the postwar period, one can point to few substantive gains in the state’s capacity to fulfill its social responsibilities” (p. 367). The varied reasons for this impotence on the part of the Latin American nation state form what seem to me the most interesting, as well as significant, portion of this excellent treatise—the first seven chapters.

A general theme of the work seems to be the novel and paradoxical idea that Latin America dare not wait for the creation of a revolutionary situation, both because it urgently needs change and because it cannot afford the huge sacrifices in human energy and resources which such a large-scale reordering of social and economic institutions would entail. Yet, while arguing that it would be grossly inefficient to destroy the old order as a prelude to further progress, the author admits (as noted above) that the policies of the last two decades have also been inefficient in obtaining the desired degree of economic development, for their achievements have fallen far short of the optimistic projections made in the early 1950s. It would seem that neither evolution nor revolution provides a clean escape from the vicious circle of economic underdevelopment which Gunnar Myrdal and others have described.