Richard P. Schaedel has brought together a collection of five papers on Latin American social change presented to a conference of Southern journalists at the University of Texas. They provide concise and entertaining summaries of much contemporary research which should be of use to the layman and the undergraduate student.
In the most penetrating of the essays, Gino Germani contrasts the process of modernization in Latin America with that of Europe and the United States. Germani contends that, in contrast to the latter areas, the rapid development of the middle classes in Latin America since 1930 has produced a “premature” modernization. By this he means that the rise of a consumption-oriented middle class and a welfare-oriented working class tends to place such demands upon weak economies that the overall modernization process is retarded.
This development is exacerbated by the presence of groups, still large, on the margins of modernization—the rural and urban poor. Such groups produce a dichotomous social structure characterized by “mass participation in the urban areas (with insufficient industrialization) and persistent marginality in the periphery and in the rural areas.” These phenomena, he feels, lead to “crises in participation” where the marginal masses are available for political mobilization by modernized urban elites, a development that has produced most of the military and political crises of the past 37 years.
In his essay “Political Aspects of Social Change” Kalman Silvert asks us to lay aside our “stereotypical freight” and to reassess such commonly held generalizations as the assumption that Latin America is stagnant, overpopulated, predominantly rural, and underdeveloped and that its social structure is characterized by such immobility and social distance that it must necessarily remain under the heel of an authoritarian elite. But national ruling groups differ from country to country (England vs. Spain, for example). If this difference is recognized, the meaningful question is not whether ruling groups exist or defend their interests, hut rather, how they defend those interests in the light of developmental requirements in their countries.
After identifying five historical patterns of international relations in the hemisphere, Bryce Wood concludes that we may be entering a new period in which both the United States and the Latin American countries are losing confidence in the institutionalized arrangements for settling disputes under the OAS charter. This development results from a growing conviction in some Latin American countries that their “ideological and interest-based home” is with the world’s underdeveloped countries and from doubts in the United States “about the capacity of the OAS procedures to satisfy (its) interests in an era when more than one Latin American government might become dominated by communist regimes.”
The remaining essays by Gregory Wolfe and Tad Szulc are useful summaries of current trends in economic policy and the role of the North American press.