This book makes a significant contribution to the study of twentieth-century Latin American politics. It will stimulate considerable discussion. David Collier and Ruth Berins Collier use this lengthy volume to “construct a model of political change and elite dynamics in Latin America that builds on an analysis of the dialectical interplay between labor control and labor mobilization” (p. 745). The authors contend that the “period of incorporation” of organized labor into the state structure during the first decades of the century played a crucial role in determining a country’s long-term political culture. Two broad patterns of incorporation are found to have characterized the eight countries under investigation: state incorporation (Brazil and Chile) and three variants of party incorporation (Mexico and Venezuela, Uruguay and Colombia, and Peru and Argentina). Given that the patterns set in motion in the incorporation period persisted, in most cases, until the 1980s, this is a useful political history of the eight countries.

In addition to five major sections that treat the paired countries in turn, the book comprises an introduction that establishes the framework and context of the analysis; an examination of the “cleavage” between labor and the state; an account of the critical juncture of the incorporation of labor into the state structure; a two-part description of the legacy of this incorporation, consisting of the short-term aftermath and the long-term repercussions; and a succinct and well-written summation. A valuable glossary presents the key terms and concepts. The 57-page bibliography evidences the comprehensive research that sustains the work.

The Colliers’ detailed comparison of the political history of the eight countries is exemplary. The breadth of their effort will lead country specialists to disagree with some of their analytical focus; Colombianists, for example, might have wished for a more detailed analysis of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán’s relationship with both the labor movement and the Liberal party, especially given the significance of the election of 1946 for the determination of future political alignments. The emphasis on the relationship between organized labor, the state, and political parties signifies the “repolitization” of labor studies, an analytical trajectory not everyone might care to follow. The lack of attention to social or economic influences on any of the three entities harks back to the “institutional” period of labor studies. The Colliers’ is a “top-down” study that dismisses socioeconomic variables as less important than political incorporation and critical junctures for the demarcation of essential political trajectories.

This is a long and complex read. The intricacy of the authors’ analysis dictates much of the length, but redundancy and a weight of detail add unnecessarily to its 774 pages of text. Undergraduates will find this book hard going, while specialists and graduate students will have to confront it.