These two works are not linked in any important way, but their consideration in a joint review causes me to reflect on the rhetoric and focus of two generations of North American Latin Americanists. Alexander, the old hand, finds nothing but praise for the Alliance for Progress and the “liberal vision” of the role of the United States in the region. Meanwhile, he pleads for his brand of agrarian reform (Venezuelan, Bolivian, or Mexican). Austin, younger and more technocratic, pleads only that “agribusiness” (one of the profession’s less fortunate but now unavoidable neologisms) should receive priority in order “to serve as a dynamic engine of development.” Austin correctly notes that food production, processing, and distribution problems need to be solved whether the decision-maker be capitalist or socialist.

The Austin book offers some 27 scenarios of agricultural business problems. For each case, he presents the information, goals, and perceptions of the entrepreneur, investor, or public officials, and the reader-student is asked to work out the best solution. “Case studies act as vehicle for strengthening the student’s analytical and decision making abilities and, thus, their managerial competence” (pp. 7-8). (Those who’ve been to Harvard Business School will recognize the genre.) The framework is a “commodity system approach,” and the style is relaxed and readable. Three to five cases are given for each commodity, with notes on the technical and market peculiarities. As a guide to the pragmatic businessman then, the book could be worth its high price.

The reader, however, may be led to forget the economic and political context in which these agribusiness problems occur. Among the many matters not given attention in Austin’s book are: the history of agricultural industries in the region (e. g., plantations); the theory of agriculture and agribusiness in development; or a critique of the power exerted by multinational agribusiness interests over technology, markets, and finance. Austin cannot, of course, be faulted for what he didn’t seek to do.

So, if you were to seek an understanding of the political economy of agriculture, you might be tempted by a book entitled “Agrarian Reform.” The fact that Alexander has dedicated most of his previous writings to problems of organized labor and to the “democratic left” in Latin America, would offer hope that he can guide us through the complexities of rural development. No such luck. The topical organization is sensible enough, dedicating chapters to the origins of the reform movement and to what needs to be done in a reform (e. g., acquire the land, satisfy the landlords, distribute the land, provide services to the beneficiaries). Reform programs of Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Cuba are used as illustration.

However, many of his “facts” are outdated, and all are unqualified and uncited. The presentation is super-simplistic and repetitious. Tough and delicate political issues are mentioned, but they are uniformly glossed over, then dropped. There are neither footnotes nor bibliography.

There is already a large popular literature available on the region’s agrarian problems and, unfortunately, Alexander’s piece adds nothing important to the list.