This collection of thirteen essays written between 1966 and 1976 by the late Kalman Silvert was selected and organized by him shortly before his death in June of 1976. According to the thoughtful foreword by Joel Jutkowitz, they stand as a reliable indication of the intellectual orientation of this ebullient, informed, wide-ranging, and self-confident scholar at the time of his untimely death. The collection starts with Silvert’s 1976 reflections on “coming home” (Kal “came home” from residence in Latin America about a decade earlier), an essay which concludes with the assertion of his “firm belief that we must reconstruct the democratic temper.” The concluding essay, “Latin America in the World in the Year 2000,” written in 1968, ends with the declaration that what we will be in 2000 is “what we will have made of ourselves— whether that be automata or free men.” I am not sure whether this deeply felt conviction is the result of his long and intimate relationship with Spanish American political scientists and sociologists and the society of which they are a part or of the emphasis on the responsibility of the individual that came from his Judaic upbringing, but it is clear that the two quotes are a fair indication of the thrust of the intervening essays.

Silvert’s frame of reference is mankind in general within the development of western thought from Rousseau through Kant and Marx to Cassirer. Economics is for him incidental to the moral and ethical concerns of society as they evolve within the political structure of the nation-state in Latin America. He contends that the overall system of inter-institutional relationships defines the extent that a society is secular or sacred. Purely instrumental politics furthers the sacred nature of society and heightens a rigid status and class system. The sacred view demands coherence and the secular view tolerates ambiguity. It is clear where his personal preference lies—as does mine— but what is not clear is the extent that this explains the past, helps us understand the present, or predicts the future in Latin America. And among his idiosyncracies, Silvert seemed to take “science” (by which I understand prediction to be required along with replicability of experiments) in “political science” more as a given than as a goal.

These essays merit a fuller discussion. Historians of Latin America should read them. If they cannot conjure with what Silvert has to say, they had best reexamine the extent of their knowledge of the region.