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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: COLUMBIA AND VENEZUELA


WILLIAM L. CANAK, Associate Professor of Sociology, Middle Tennessee State University
DANILO LEVI, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Southeastern Louisiana University


COLOMBIA

COLOMBIAN SOCIETY IN THE EARLY 1990s epitomizes the bundle of seemingly contradictory processes evident throughout Latin America. Expanding trade, urbanization, demographic maturation and progressive social action are married to violence, strong illegal and informal economies, impoverishment, and repression. Within this turbulent mosaic, Colombian sociologists continue their crucial role in providing diverse and highly competent profiles of Colombian society.

The well established and highly professional community of sociologists working in Colombian universities, government agencies and private institutes, continues to mark new directions for the 1990s. The US- and European-trained generation of the 1960s-70s, most based in a few universities and private institutes supported by international monies, is still producing a prodigious volume of excellent works. But the next generation, often trained in Colombia, is also making substantial contributions across the board. In addition, sociologists based both at provincial universities and outside Colombia are producing works on diverse topics not always well represented in the past. Thus, cultural studies of race and ethnic relations (items bi 93024319, bi 93024302, and bi 93008842), industrial and labor relations (items bi 93004721 and bi 93021715), and public health (item bi 93024328) bode well for the continuing intellectual growth and vitality of Colombian research and its relevance to sociologists elsewhere. Meanwhile, traditional sub-fields of Colombian sociology such as political economy, women's studies, and rural and urban studies are still represented by important works, with implications for sociologists studying other nations.

Violence continues as a dominant or underlying theme throughout the field of Colombian sociology. Whether based in the politicized economic relations of regional economies or the narco-traffic industry, violence permeates every niche of Colombian society. Thus the sociologists in Colombia are a particulary hardy breed whose research necessarily makes them vulnerable, even as they build an institutional base for maintaining their community in the face of local threats and declining international resources. Sociology journals, books, conferences, and well established departments at many universities document the vitality and strength of Colombian sociology in the 1990s. [WLC]

VENEZUELA

POLITICAL ECONOMY continues to be of salient concern to Venezuelan sociology. The impact of the petroleum economy remains a common theme in a number of important works focusing on a variety of social processes (items bi 94004481, bi 94004437, and bi 94004491).

Another major theme is the relationship between the State and civil society, an increasingly problematic one in view of the persistent economic crisis and "adjustment" policies (items bi 94004500, bi 94004496, and bi 93004913). The State-society relationship is also central in the burgeoning work on urban sociology, which notes the importance of community and environmental movements as the common ground in which diverse collective and institutional actors interact dialectically to further pluralism and democratization (items bi 94004485, bi 94004458, bi 94004450, and bi 94004435). The confluence of ecological and democratization movements suggests a potentially valuable resource that Latin American societies can deploy in their political and economic relations with core States.

Broader theoretical considerations of these processes and their linkage to major concerns seem necessary to promote the regional solidarity and coordination that could bring such potential to fruition. The literature published during the period under review here, however, does not apply a regional focus, instead favoring more limited empirical studies. Future efforts should attempt syntheses of empirical case studies and more inclusive theoretical generalizations.

A Latin American tradition of deepening concern with the adaptive strategies of social groups continues to enrich the scope of cultural and ethnic studies which range from urban survival tactics (items bi 94004438, bi 94004446, and bi 94004455) to cultural diffusion, pluralism, and assimilation (items bi 94004493, bi 94004460, bi 94004464, bi 94004480, bi 94004463, and bi 94004472).

Finally, it is important to note the stimulating contributions of Venezuelans to the theoretical and practical development of sociology in general, with works that address crucial questions about the meaning and mission of the discipline and its practitioners, from a decidedly Latin American perspective (items bi 94004499 and bi 94004241). [DL]


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