Celso Furtado, a well-known expatriate Brazilian economist has given us this book on the Latin American economy. It is a useful work, reflecting, naturally enough, the author’s personal judgment respecting the relevance of materials pertinent to the title. That is to say, it is truly a synthesis rather than a set of data, and ideas flow compellingly from basic premises. In the exercise of his prerogative of selection, the author departs from the degree of balanced coverage implied by the title. Moreover, Editorial Universitaria creates a misleading idea of the book’s contents by dropping the subtitle as such and making the cover title La economía latinoamericana desde la conquista ibérica hasta la Revolución Cubana. Both versions of the title suggest an economic history covering about five centuries. However, only a small portion of the volume relates to the period prior to the present century and most of it relates to the last twenty-five years.
In reality, the book is more akin to the modified economic “histories” which deal with economic development. It presents the author’s interpretation of secondary data for the recent development of the Latin American economies, striving at the same time to discern comcon elements within the Latin American sphere leading to meaningful generalization.
In mentioning the Cuban Revolution in its title, the author trades somewhat upon this dramatic event. The primary justification for using it in the title is a single “literary” chapter. The author’s statistical tables and analysis do not end with the Revolution. Moreover, in historical terms, he does not really equate it with the Iberian Conquest.
The most useful aspect of the book is the interpretation of recent economic development reflected in the selected arrangement of secondary materials from the viewpoint of a well known Brazilian economist influential in North and Latin American intellectual circles. While numerous cross-sectional and short term series are presented, there are no long term statistical series, nor is there a single graph. Analytical statistical tests and empirical verifications such as correlation coefficients and quantitative techniques of the “new” economic history are also absent.