In addition to a series of electoral studies and collections of related data, the Institute for the Comparative Study of Political Systems has sponsored monographs describing military golpes de estado in contemporary Latin America. Philip B. Taylor’s study is the third such publication, and like its predecessors presents a descriptive narrative of an unconstitutional military seizure of power. The author, a political scientist, states in his introduction that “although some attention will be paid to the relevant facts, there also will be an effort to explain in analytical terms the causes of these facts.” It would have been more accurate to say that he would provide a brief if detailed overview of Venezuelan politics for the past quarter-century, less than half of which deals directly with the 1958 overthrow of Pérez Jiménez.

The work gives a useful account of major political forces and events in Venezuela. As political science, however, it is but partially successful in analyzing the role of the military. Certainly it has little theoretical importance and is without a meaningful conceptual framework, either explicit or otherwise. The inclination to describe individual trees is strong, and in the process the forest remains rather obscure. Taylor does not offer either new empirical data or fresh insights into the Venezuelan military, which might have given his study greater meaning. The earlier ICOPS study by Martin Needler on the 1963 golpe in Ecuador, for instance, provided the kind of information on the inner workings of ranking military decision-makers which contributed to an understanding of polities in Ecuador. Although writing at greater length, Taylor fails to do this for Venezuela.

In short, there is little which is not well known to those familiar with Venezuelan politics. Nor will students of civil-military relations benefit greatly from reading this work. Finally, the author’s application of his North American normative values to Venezuela leads him to assessments which are prone to cultural bias. This is most noticeable in his opening chapter on “ ‘Traditional Venezuela’ and the ‘Democratic Caesar’,” as well as in such statements as: “The Hispanic cultural tradition, like a kind of original sin, was the longer-range target for change” (p. 62). Unhappily the single adjective best describing this monograph must be “disappointing.”