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Volume 61 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: GENERAL


BENIGNO E. AGUIRRE-LÓPEZ, Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware


RECENT SCHOLARSHIP in sociology continues lines of investigation established in previous years, particularly studies of the situation of women, gender identity, reproductive health, adolescence and youth, and violence and crime. Other less frequently examined, but still worthwhile, topics of investigation include political financing (item #bi2003001557#), state instruments of social control (item #bi2003001537#), and the modernization and reform of the institution of the police (item #bi2003001543#).

One of the most notable emphases of recent scholarship is globalization and its effects. Globalization has become one of the most crucial instigators of social change in the region, typified by the alarming spread of unemployment, poverty, and marginality, the disappearance of the middle classes, and the weakening of governments. Among other excellent efforts, Jorge Arturo Reina's contribution in the book edited by Eugenio Herrera Balharry entitled "Del pasado al presente" (item #bi2003001590#), summarizes the historical antecedents of the present process of globalization and its similarities to previous colonial experiences in the region. The article examines the deleterious effect of globalization on political parties and on politics more generally in that it destroys the connection, key to democratic governance, between voters and their political representatives. Reina also discusses the need to preserve and enhance the ethical dimensions of economics and politics that are so often challenged when economic efficiency becomes the reigning value. Another notable contribution in this same volume is the chapter by Andres Vallini. He offers a clear-headed exposition of the financial underpinning of globalization and its economic structures and practices, such as international economic exchanges, regional integration, and extreme worldwide mobility of capital, and of the need to oppose its homogenizing cultural tendencies, establish satisfactory regulatory systems, and facilitate the creation of a planetary conscience.

Yet another very worthwhile effort along this line is the book edited by Jorge Carpio and Irene Novacovsky entitled De igual a igual: el desafio del estado ante los nuevos problemas sociales (item #bi2003001545#). Of the many excellent contributions in the volume, the work by Bernardo Kliksberg entitled "Inequidad y crecimiento: nuevos hallazgos de investigación" is worthy of mention. The author makes use of an extensive literature on economic development as well as his own analysis of income distribution and growth to argue that social and economic equity are fundamental causes of economic growth rather than long-term effects of it. His emphasis on equity reflects an admirable sense of human solidarity and enlightened self interest which could transform the present dismal situation.

Among those offering support to Kliksberg's emphasis on equity is the complex empirical work of Pablo Fajnzylber and his colleagues entitled "Crimen y victimización: una perspectiva económica" published in their edited book, Crimen y violencia en América Latina (item #bi2003001563#). They examine the tremendous growth of crime in the region and conclude that crime is self-perpetuating, that economic growth can be an effective means to fight crime, and that inequality in income and economic conditions is a key cause of crime.

In an exploration of the idea of equity, Sagasti and his colleagues outline five principles which should guide economic and social development in the region: equity and human dignity; integration of the political and economic spheres; recognition of ecological, demographic, cultural, and social heterogeneity; international equity; and pluralism and social learning (item #bi2003001595#). Carpio, Klein, and Novacovsky have also edited an excellent set of studies of the informal economy and its patterns of social exclusions (item #bi2003001540#), while Sánchez Quintanar and her colleagues provide a collection of informative case studies of the impact of globalization on the rural sector in Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Chile (item #bi2003001547#).


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