This collection of essays represents a solid contribution to the growing body of literature on religion and society in Latin America. The editor is also the author of three chapters in the volume, which is organized from a conference on religion, politics, and culture sponsored in 1982 by the Latin American Committee of the Social Science Research Council.

One of the main themes of the book is the relationship between institutions of the Catholic church institutions and popular religion. The authors distinguish between formal church and popular practices, examining the constant interaction between the two. These authors represent a variety of perspectives and backgrounds, as well as a broad sampling of the best research on Latin American religion today. They are anthropologists, social scientists, historians, and other specialists who agree on the legitimacy of religion as an autonomous organizing principle for the study of its institutions, ideas, values, and people. They believe that the systematic study of the relationship between religion and society is first and foremost an interdisciplinary problem.

Seven country studies are included: El Salvador (Philip Berryman), Nicaragua (Michael Dodson), Brazil (Thomas Bruneau, Scott Mainwaring), Chile (Brian Smith), Colombia (Daniel Levine), and Bolivia (Susan Rosales Nelson). The country studies are usefully presented by Daniel Levine in a chapter that covers the historical context, the methodological framework, and basic concepts such as popular religion, the poor, base communities, and the like. Thomas Kselman and Charles Reilly introduce the concept of popular religion and religious populism with its impact on Latin American populism.

The country studies represent a synthesis of materials that have been previously published. Each author is faithful to the same methodological perspective. I found the chapter on religion and ritual in Bolivia by Susan Rosales Nelson particularly interesting. She emphasizes the importance of popular religious ritual in understanding the church. In this she provides a pleasant complement to (one could almost say relief from) the more conventional perspectives on religious institutions, power, and politics of the other authors.

This book represents a significant contribution to the growing literature on the role of religion in society. It will be especially useful for specialists in the field. And it provides a sympathetic and critical analysis for church practitioners who are looking for a better understanding of the institutions, values, and processes which constantly require their professional attention.