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Volume 61 / Social Sciences

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: GENERAL


G. POPE ATKINS, Research Fellow, Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin, and Professor Emeritus of Political Science, United States Naval Academy


IF THE EXTENSIVE REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE in the preparation of this section of HLAS 61 is a reliable gauge, then the volume of general studies on the international relations of Latin America over the past two years has declined, resulting in fewer entries in this chapter. Although the volume has been reduced, the proportion of high quality studies remains significant. The survey further confirms a continuing increase in the number of works by researchers in humanities disciplines traditionally on the periphery of the study of International Relations. The growing relevance of the field of International Relations within the humanities is a reflection of rapidly expanding trans-societal phenomena alongside interstate occurrences. This shift does not diminish the roles of the social sciences and international history; rather, it signals the ongoing reality of their augmentation.

Current Latin American international relations and related state foreign policies, largely understood in terms of the enduring post-Cold War international context (see commentary in HLAS 57, p. 547–550 and HLAS 59, p. 589–590), have been complicated by the consequences of the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001. That violence, which deeply influenced global and inter-American relations, also affects our reading of many of the works cited here that were written prior to that date, particularly those identifying "current trends" and with prescriptive policy elements. Some Latin Americanists, in more recent works, have begun to factor this context into the literature. Added to the complex mix are internal state and societal dynamics in Latin American and Caribbean countries and in the US, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere; as well as the activities of international organizations (both IGOs and NGOs) at all levels. Significant historical works also continue to be produced. Historians are applying traditional concepts, pursuing social or cultural approaches and themes, and synthesizing long established notions and relatively new scenarios.

Some particularly noteworthy books appeared during the biennium under review. The contribution by the distinguished professor of Latin American literature, Jean Franco, is a prime example of the growing relevance of the humanities to the study of International Relations (item #bi2003001671#). This exceptional book is an intellectual exploration of Latin America as a Cold War "cultural battlefield" with current "ghostly remnants." The synoptic annotation cannot do justice to the depth and subtlety of Franco's study of history, politics, literary criticism, and cultural observation. Robert Holden and Eric Zolov, graduate students at the time of publication, have assembled an original and imaginative documentary record designed for classroom use but with conceptualizations of interest to more senior scholars (item #bi2004000031#). Observing that historians of Latin American-US relations increasingly depend on theories, methods, and research in other academic disciplines, Holden and Zolov join the newer approaches to history writing with traditional historiography to produce a broadly represented "documentary history" of inter-American relations. David Mares has produced an originally conceived book, at once revisionist in historical matters and imaginative in theoretical terms (item #bi2004000037#). Mares asserts that Latin America during the 20th century has been a microcosm of international relations that forms a coherent "regional security complex" and "a particularly appropriate place on which to focus" in order to discover "determinants of the use of force." He investigates the complex Latin American historical record for empirical evidence, assumes the certainty of conflict in interstate relations but not of military violence, and explores the circumstances that decrease the resort to military force by rival states and allow them to coexist, in the process engaging in sophisticated political analysis and introducing his own foreign policy decision model. In another work addressing the theme of security and the military, Miguel Angel Centeno's study is a provocative, broadly historical, and thoroughly conceptualized understanding of the role of war in Latin America's political development (item #bi2004000022#). Rejecting as irrelevant to the Latin American experience the widely accepted model of the modern nation-state as grounded in warfare, Centeno finds the relatively peaceful history of Latin American political development generally characterized not by concentration of state power but by its dilution. Both historical and social science elements are meticulously researched, carefully reasoned, and clearly argued.


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