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Volume 61 / Social Sciences

POLITICAL ECONOMY: CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN


DANIEL MASÍS-IVERSON, Associate Professor of Political Science (1977-2005), Universidad de Costa Rica, and Visiting Assistant Professor, American University


THE WORKS EXAMINED IN THIS SECTION very much represent the spirit of the times. They reflect the profound economic and political changes that have occurred in the region over the last quarter of a century, including the aftermath of civil wars, the end of the Cold War and the exhaustion of traditional ideologies as guides to a better future. Their historical context also includes the acute financial crises of the 1980s and their continuing reverberations. They reflect a painstaking rethinking, underway for over 20 years, on the manner in which the region's countries, individually and, in some cases, collectively, need to relate to the rest of the hemisphere and to a globalized world in order to advance economically, socially and politically and, in some cases, how to deal with a past of violent conflict.

Indeed, although there are some exceptions, by and large Central America and the Caribbean's academic and scientific work is harnessed to address these problems, frequently framed as policy issues. The overarching theme of economic and social development is a usual one when it comes to social-scientific production in the nonindustrialized Americas, but what distinguishes current production is recognition of a Cold War world that has ended and a new era of globalization that has begun and which needs to be faced.

This commonality in topic and purpose simultaneously presents differences in approach. On the one hand, there is the literature arguing for the inevitability and even the desirability of deeper insertion of the region into an increasingly integrated planet, or at least, American continent, in fairly straightforward economic terms. Such is the case, inter alia, of Segovia's Transformación estructural y reforma economica en El Salvador (item #bi2003006190#), or Ronulfo Jiménez et al.'s Los retos políticos de la reforma económica en Costa Rica (item #bi2003006306#).

On the other hand, there is a body of literature that does not deny the existence of globalizing processes, but which advocates a more critical approach regarding the mode of insertion and the various domestic consequences each policy option may have (e.g., Chase-Dunn et al.'s Globalization on the Ground: Postbellum Guatemalan Democracy and Development (item #bi2003006301#), Pérez-Sáinz et al.'s Encuentros inciertos: globalización y territories locales en Centroamérica (item #bi2003006185#)), or that proposes specific policy prescriptions regarding the structure of the government and citizen participation (e.g., Ruiz-Bravo et al., Pobreza, estado y desarrollo humano: del asistencialismo a la participación ciudadana: la experiencia de Costa Rica (item #bi2003006193#)).

This biennium's Handbook selections, then, reflect a vibrant but as yet unfinished agenda of research and debate for a region where, to the contrary of what frequently occurs in industrialized societies, scholars and policymakers not only come together, but often exchange places.


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