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Volume 57 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: THE CARIBBEAN AND THE GUIANAS (except Cuba)


IVELAW L. GRIFFITH, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Florida International University


THIS CHAPTER REFLECTS the reality that Caribbean Politics is a multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary intellectual enterprise by definition, highlighting an accepted feature of area studies. Moreover, understanding the political dynamics of the region requires appreciation of the individual and complementary value of several fields, including history, sociology, economics, anthropology, political economy, and political science, which itself includes a convergence of the subfields of comparative politics and international politics.

The works are descriptive and analytic in nature, and the spectrum ranges from assessing single leaders, countries and issues, to examining subregional concerns by analyzing both regional developments and international desiderata. There is a rich mixture of works at all levels of analysis - unit, group, State, and systemic. Works are single-authored, edited volumes, reports from government agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and conference proceedings.

In terms of substance, the entries have three general features. First, they describe, analyze, and (some) attempt to predict the vicissitudes of Caribbean power politics - in both the domestic and international arenas - of the 1980s and the early 1990s. Second, they examine the antecedents, pros and cons, and prospects for political and institutional change in both national and subregional contexts (items bi 95021492, bi 95021482, and bi 95021517). Third, there is an effort to address some of the critical issues of the drama of politics throughout the 1970-90s. Noteworthy topics are democratic governance, corruption, human rights, and geopolitics. While these four issues converge at times (items bi 96003452 and bi 94012888), most examinations address them individually, focusing on complex matrixes which most of them entail. The matter of governance, for instance, obliges writers to raise questions related to political stability. As several authors discuss, both democratic governance and political stability require attention, among other things, to show how power is organized and contested and explain how political participation is structured and utilized. Transparent elections and civil and political rights such as free speech, press, and assembly are central themes.

Many studies focus on these matters in relation to the pursuit and practice of democratic governance. Due to the way in which political power was exercised in the region, especially during the 1980s, political dysfunctionality is examined, including topics such as bureaucratic and political corruption (both ad hoc and institutionalized), human rights violations, and governmental lethargy and inefficiency (items bi 96003454, bi 95018308, bi 95021507, and bi 95021512). Some studies look at cases of functional and slightly malfunctional democratic governance, showcasing laudable exercise of political power and advocating modifications in the organization and use of that power (items bi 95021495 and bi 96020672).

Some works reflect an appreciation that political legitimacy is no longer merely a function of political participation, free and fair elections, and the prudent use of domestic political authority. It is also increasingly dependent on the interests and pursuits of constituencies and actors outside the country, such as exile communities, electoral monitors, international agencies such as the OAS and the UN, and countries such as the US, Spain, Britain, and Canada (item bi 96003461). Thus, the role of external actors is increasing, which is critical to the conferment of legitimacy and the consequent pursuit of political stability.

Questions of democratic governance, political contestation, corruption, and governmental inefficiency require attention to the organization and workings of political units. However, they also dramatize the importance of political leadership. Several studies focus on leadership, some analyzing only the politics, policies, and performance of specific leaders (items bi 95021510, bi 95021480, and bi 96024734). Most assessments strive to be objective, while others tend to be unflattering in their discourse.


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