In a stimulating yet disappointing book, Alain Rouquié discusses at length both the historical and contemporary relationships of the military and the state. He shows convincingly just how the military has reflected the verticality—social, economic, administrative—of Latin America. He attempts to describe and analyze this phenomenon for the entire region.

The well-framed first portion of the book (pp. 31-189) emphasizes the strong heritage of authoritarianism and social stratification—a “civil-agrarian-military continuum,” dominated over the longue durée by men on horseback. He asserts properly that the emergence of states in modern form coincided with the development of armies as professional organizations. The two processes were not simply parallel; they were inseparable. The process of professionalization separated army and society, created a disjointed socio-politico-military relationship, and upset the previously set continuum. Professional armies became political organizations.

Despite some thin ice in case studies used to prove the author’s hypotheses, notably those dealing with Chile and Peru, the first portion of the book is noteworthy for its interpretive treatment of military-civilian relations and overall grasp of the material. Chapter 5 (pp. 149-189) provides a good discussion of United States policies in the region. Those with expertise in the history of a specific country or era may disagree with some findings, but this is to be expected. It is the result of stimulating scholarship.

In the second portion of the book the author’s use of Latin America as structural framework creates problems. The complexity of the subject is manifest, and the promise demonstrated in earlier pages fails to materialize, save for a reasoned treatment of United States training and orientation of armed forces (pp. 193-222). Scholarly discourse gives way to journalistic narrative.

The reader is confronted with attempts to categorize military-state affairs. Such attempts frequently prove all too myopic. Often the categories fail to outlive their elaboration. Chapter 6 (pp. 193-231) on Central America and the Caribbean, “Praetorian Guards and the Patrimonial State,” is reminiscent of the care exhibited in Part One, but the treatment of Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia in chapter 7 (pp. 232-275) shows the problems of fitting square pegs into round holes.

Military participation in Chilean and Uruguayan civilian affairs produces “the terrorist state”; in Argentina and Brazil (no terrorists need apply?), “praetorian republics”; and in Peru and Bolivia (free from praetorians, one asks?), “revolution by general staff.” Rouquié merits our praise for taking stands, but the stands are precariously subjective. A generally cautious set of conclusions on the future of military-civil relations owes as much to the vagaries of evidence presented as to the overall scope of the study.

The dust jacket’s blurb defines this book as “an x-ray of authoritarian regimes.” Rouquie’s x-rays penetrate some parts of both region and topic, but do not allow the emergence of sharp images.