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Unity and Diversity in Latin American History*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2009


This article has its origins in a generalized feeling of dissatisfaction with current theories about political development trends in Latin America. It is an early statement of a series of arguments which will subsequently be developed in a forthcoming book.

The veritable explosion of empirically grounded monographs in the last fifteen or twenty years has made the task of producing a synthetic account of Latin American development simultaneously more pressing and more difficult: more difficult because it has made simple explanatory models harder to sustain, and has opened up the accepted historiography to serious and widespread revisionist attack; more pressing because many, if not most, social scientists accept the need to develop a theory of social change which is historically grounded, capable of explaining large-scale social transformations. My concern in this article is with the methodological issues involved in the formulation of an adequate theory of Latin American development, rather than with establishing new facts. There is considerable historiographical controversy over many of the events discussed in this article, and in these cases I have made my own judgement about where, on balance, the evidence points.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1984

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1 Ibid.

2 Wiarda, H., Corporatism and National Development in Latin America (Boulder, Westview Press, 1981).Google Scholar

3 Véliz, C., The Centralist Tradition in Latin America (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4 Stein, S. and Stein, B., The Colonial Heritage of Latin America (New York, Oxford University Press, 1970);Google ScholarGaleano, E., Open Veins of Latin America (New York, Monthly Review Press, 1973).Google Scholar

5 Malloy, J., ‘Latin America: the Modal Pattern’, in Malloy, J. (ed), Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America (Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977).Google Scholar

6 Cardoso, F. H., ‘Associated Dependent Development’ in Stepan, A. (ed.), Authoritarian Brazil (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1973); O'Donnell, G. A., Modernization and Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism (Berkeley, Institute of International Studies, University of California, 1973).Google Scholar

7 Cardoso, F. H. and Faletto, E., Dependency and Development in Latin America (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1979; original Spanish edition, 1969);Google ScholarWeaver, F. S., Class, State and Industrial Structure (Westport, Conn, Greenwood Press, 1980);Google ScholarCueva, A., El Desarrollo del Capitalismo en América Latina (Mexico, Siglo XXI, 1977);Google ScholarBambirra, V., Capitalismo Dependiente Latinoamericano (Santiago, CESO, 1973).Google Scholar

8 The reasons for the practical neglect of the Cardoso–Faletto volume are unclear. It would be interesting to explore this topic from the point of view of the sociology of knowledge.

9 C. Véliz, op. cit.

10 Cammack, P., review of Véliz, ‘Centralist Tradition in Latin America’, Durbam University Journal, vol. 75. 2 (1983), pp. 118119.Google Scholar

11 Furtado, C., Economic Development of Latin America (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1970);Google ScholarSunkel, O. and Paz, P., El Subdesarroio Latinoamericano y la Teoría del Desarrollo (Mexico, Siglo XXI, 1970);Google ScholarCollier, D. (ed.), The New Authoritarianism in Latin America (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1979).Google Scholar

12 J. Malloy, op. cit. Naturally, many writers differ in significant aspects from the position put forward by Malloy. My claim is that writers in this tradition all share a broadly similar framework for the analysis of Latin American history; Malloy has been chosen because his work is perhaps the clearest and most succinct example of this approach.

13 Furtado, C., The Economics Growth of Brazil (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1965).Google Scholar

14 G. A. O'Donnell, Modernization and Bureaucratic-Autboritarianism, op. cit.

15 Economic Commission for Latin American, Development Problems in Latin American (Austin, University of Texas Press 1972).Google Scholar

16 Other criticisms of the B–A model may be found in J. Serra, ‘Three Mistaken Theses Regarding the Connection between Industrialization and Authoritarian Regimes’ in D. Collier (ed.), The New Authoritarianism; Roxborough, I., ‘State, Multinationals and the Working Class in Brazil and Mexico’, in Lewis, C. and Abel, C. (eds.), Economic Imperialism in Latin America (London, Athlone Press,Google Scholar forthcoming); Wallerstein, M., ‘The Collapse of Democracy in Brazil: its Economic Determinants’, Latin American Research Review, vol.15, no. 3 (1980);Google ScholarRemmer, K. & Merkx, G., ‘Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism Revisited’, Latin American Research Review, vol. 17, no. 2 (1982);Google ScholarO'Donnell, G., ‘Reply to Remmer and Merkx’, Latin American Research Review, vol. 17, no. 2 (1982).Google Scholar

17 Ianni, O., La Formación del Estado Populista en América Latina (Mexico, ERA, 1972).Google Scholar

18 Clearly, a great variety of differing approaches fall under the ‘classical’ definition of populism. Essential to all of them is the contrast between the types of action and organization supposedly associated with class actors and that characteristic of situations of low ‘classness’.

19 What I regard as the ‘classical’ position is represented by many of the works in Ionescu, G. and Gellner, E. (eds.), Populism (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969),Google Scholar and, more recently, Mouzelis, N., ‘Ideology and Class Politics’, New Left Review, no. 112, (1978).Google Scholar The principal opposing view of populism (which I refer to as the ‘discourse analysis’ approach) is set out in Laclau, E., Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory (London, New Left Review, 1977);Google Scholarde Ipola, E., Ideología y Discurso Politica (Mexico, Folios Ediciones, 1982 );Google ScholarOsakabe, H., Argumentaçāo e Discurso Politico (Sāo Paulo, Kairós, 1979);Google ScholarDebert, G. G., Ideologia e Populismo (Sāo Paulo, Quieroz Editor, 1979).Google Scholar

20 Harding, T., ‘The Political History of Organized Labor in Brazil’, Ph.D., Stanford University, 1973, p. 127;Google ScholarBernardo, A. C., Tutela e autonomia sindical: Brasil 1930–1945 (Sāo Paulo, Quieroz Editor, 1982).Google Scholar

21 I make a distinction here between ‘alliance’ and ‘coalition’ which is seldom made explicit by ‘classical’ theorists of populism. Most political forces are coalitions in the sense that their supporters are drawn from a variety of classes; to talk about class ‘alliances’, however, suggests that organizations which are representative of only one class (e.g. trade unions) deliberately and consciously form a compact with other social actors to further their mutual interests.

22 See Kornhauser, W. A., The Politics of Mass Society (Glencoe, The Free Press, 1959).Google Scholar

23 Horowitz, J., ‘The Impact of the Pre-1943 Labor Union Traditions on Peronism’, Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 15, part 1 (1983);CrossRefGoogle ScholarDi Tella, T., ‘Working-Class Organization and Politics in Argentina’, Latin American Research Review, vol. 16, no. 2 (1981).Google Scholar

24 Torre, J. C.,‘Sobre as Origens do Peronismo’, Ectudos CEBRAP, no. 16 (0406 1976).Google Scholar

25 Ibid. On the origins of Peronism, see also Little, W., ‘The Popular Origins of Peronism’, in Rock, D. (ed), Argentina in the Twentieth Century (London, Duckworth, 1975), and Murmis, M. and Portantiero, J. C. (eds.), Estudios Sobre Los Orígenes del Peronismo, vol. I (Buenos Aires, Siglo XXI, 1971).Google Scholar

26 The classical statement concerning the role of the migrants from the interior is Germani, G., Politica y Sociedad en una Epoca de Transición (Buenos Aires, Paidos, 1968).Google Scholar See also Germani, G., Authoritarianism, Fascism and National Populism (New Brunswick, Transaction Books, 1978);Google ScholarGermani, G., ‘El Surgimiento del Peronismo’, Desarrollo Económico, vol. 13, no. 1 (1973). Some of the critics include Little, op cit.; Murmis and Portentiero, op. cit.;CrossRefGoogle ScholarHalperin, T., ‘Algunas observaciones sobre Germani, el surgimiento de peronismo y los migrantes internos’, Desarrollo Económico, vol. 14, no. 6 (1975);Google ScholarKenworthy, E., ‘Interpretaciones ortodoxas y revisionistas del apoyo inicial del peronismo’, Desarrollo Económico, vol. 14, no. 56 (1975).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

27 Horowitz, op. cit.

28 di, Tella, op. cit., PP. 4951.Google Scholar

29 de, Ipola, op. cit., P. 154.Google Scholar

30 León, S., ‘Alianza de clase y cardenismo’, Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Polúticas y Sociales, no. 89 (1977);Google ScholarLeón, S., ‘El Comité Nacional de Defensa Proletaria’, Revista Mexicana de Sociología, vol. 40, no. 2 (1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

31 Barbosa Cano, F., ‘El charrazo contra el STPRM’, in Woldenberg, a1., Memorias del Encuentro Sobre Historia del Movimiento Obrero (3 vols. Puebla, Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, 1980), vol. 2;Google ScholarMedina, L., Civilismo y Modernización del Autoritarismo: Historia de la Revolución Mexicana, vol. 20 (Mexico, El Colegio de México, 1979).Google Scholar

32 Laclau, op. cit.

33 J. Serra, op. cit.; Villela, A. and W. Suzigan, ‘Government Policy and the Economic Growth of Brazil, 1889–1945’, Brazilian Economic Studies, no. 3 (1975).Google Scholar

34 Wells, J., ‘Industrial Accumulation and Living Standards in the Long-run: The Sāo Paulo Industrial Working Class, 1930–1975’, Journal of Development Studies, vol. 19, nos. 2 and (01 and 04 1983).Google Scholar

35 Bortz, J., ‘El salario obrero en el Distrito Federal’, Investigación Económica, no. 4 (1977). Since the mid-70s, real wages have tended to fall.Google Scholar

36 F. H. Cardoso and E. Faletto, op. cit. In this article I have used the 1979 English translation. As Robert, Packenham, ‘Plus ça Change…The English Edition of Cardoso and Faletto's Dependencia y Desarrollo en América Latina’, Latin American Research Review, vol. 17, no.1 (1982), points out, there are a number of differences between the 1969 (Spanish) and the 1979 (English) editions. These consist principally in the addition of illustrative material to the chapters discussed in this article (chapters 3 and 4) and a post scriptnm. As Packenham notes, the addition of this material does not alter the authors' argument. Moreover, to judge by the footnotes, Cardoso and Faletto do not seem to have assimilated the monographic literature published after 1969; only two new sources are mentioned, one from 1972 (dealing with Peru) and one from 1970 (dealing with Mexico). These do not alter either the authors' arguments or the criticisms presented in the present rticle.Google Scholar

37 At various points the authors allude to other differentiating factors, such as the degree of diversity of the export system, though these variables appear to be of secondary importance. Ibid., pp. 80–81.

38 Ibid., p. 83.

39 M. Murmis and J. C. Portantiero, op. cit.; Smith, P., Politics and Beef in Argentina (New York, Columbia University Press, 1969).Google Scholar

40 Teichman, J., ‘Interest Conflict and Entrepreneurial Support for Peron’, Latin American Research Review, vol. 16, no. 1 (1981).Google Scholar

41 Dean, W., The Industrialization of Sāo Paulo (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1969).Google Scholar

42 On the regional oligarchies in Brazil see, inter alia, Faoro, R., Os Donos do Poder (2 vols, Porto Alegre, Editora Globo, 1979, 1st ed. 1957);Google ScholarLove, J. et al. ‘O Poder dos Estados’ in Fausto, B. (ed.), Historia Geral da Civilizaçāo Brasileira, vol. 8 (1977);Google ScholarLove, J. L., Rio Grande do Sul and Brazilian Regionalism, 1882–1930 (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1971);Google ScholarLove, J. L., Sāo Paulo in the Brazilian Federation, 1889–1937 (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1980);Google ScholarLevine, R. M., Pernambuco in the Brazilian Federation, 1889–1937 (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1978); Wirth, J. D., Minas Gerais in the Brazilian Federation, 1889–1937 (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1977);Google ScholarPang, E.-S., Babia in the First Brazilian Republic, 1889–1934 (Gainesville, University of Florida Press, 1979);Google ScholarNunes Leal, V., Coronelismo (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977); Uricoechea, F., Patrimonial Foundations of the Brazilian Bureaucratic State (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

43 The 1932 civil war has sometimes been interpreted in a way which suggested that there was a clash of economic or class interests between Sāo Paulo and the Federal Government, e.g. Flynn, P., Brazil: a Political Analysis (London, Ernest Benn, 1978), but such a position is hard to reconcile with the data on the close links between coffee planters and industrialists.Google Scholar

44 Diniz, E., Empresariado, Estado e Capitalismo no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1978); Diniz, E. and Boschi, R., Empresariado Nacional e Estado no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, Editora Forense Universitaria, 1978).Google Scholar

45 Véliz, C., ‘La Mesa de Tres Patas’, Desarrollo Económico, vol. 3, nos. 1–2 (0409 1963);CrossRefGoogle ScholarCarriÈre, J., Landowners and Politics in Chile (Amsterdam, CEDLA, 1981).Google Scholar

46 Zeitlin, M. and Ratcliff, R., ‘Research Methods for the Analysis of the Internal Structure of Dominant Classes’, Latin American Research Review, vol. 10, no. 3 (1975);Google ScholarZeitlin, M. et al. , ‘Class Segments – Agrarian Property and Political Leadership in the Capitalist Class of Chile’, American Sociological Review, vol. 41, no. 6 (1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

47 Kirsch, H., Industrial Development in a Traditional Society (Gainesville, University of Florida Press, 1977);Google Scholar see also Wright, T. C., Landowners and Reform in Chile, 1919–1940 (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1982); and Bauer, A. J., Chilean Rural Society (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1975).Google Scholar

48 Zeitlin, M. and Ratcliff, R., ‘Research Methods for the Analysis of the Internal Structure of Dominant Classes’, Latin American Research Review, vol. 10, no. 3 (1975), p. 54.Google Scholar

49 Cardoso, F. H., ‘The Consumption of Dependency Theory in the United States’, Latin American Research Review, vol. 12, no. 3 (1977).Google Scholar

50 Henfrey, C., ‘Dependency, Modes of Production and the Class Analysis of Latin America’, Latin American Perspectives, vol. 8, nos 3 and 4 (1981), p. 29;CrossRefGoogle Scholar cf. also Cueva, A., ‘A Summary of “Problems and Perspectives of Dependency Theory”’, Latin American Perspectives, vol. 3, no. 4 (1976), p. 14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

51 When I refer to a ‘two-class model’ I mean to imply that the basic dynamic factors in the model derive from the interaction of the two classes. In this sense they are indispensable starting points or building blocks. Naturally, in any concrete investigation it will be necessary also to take into account other social classes and strata, as these will have some impact on the outcomes of political conflicts. It is possible to go on adding extra factors to an analysis, making it more complex and thereby explaining more of a concrete situation. The addition of these extra factors is, however, a theoretically quite different matter from the question of whether the model begins simply with the dominant class(es) (a one-class model), or with both dominant and subordinate classes (a two-class model).

52 It should not be thought that this is a simple matter. A description of the structure of a class is an exceedingly difficult and complex task. There are many factors involved in the structuration of social classes. One would wish to know a great deal about labour markets, social mobility, residential patterns, ethnicity, religion, etc.

53 Binder, al., Crises and Sequences in Political Development (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1971);Google ScholarValenzuela, J. S., ‘Labor Movement Formation and Politics: the Chilean and French Cases in Comparative Perspective’, Ph.D., Columbia, 1979;Google ScholarWeisman, C., Modernization and the Working Class (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1982);Google ScholarAnderson, C., Politics and Economic Change in Latin America (New York, Van Nostrand, 1967).Google Scholar

54 I find the position taken by Wright, E. O., Class Structure and Income Determination (New York, Academic Press, 1979), particularly suggestive on this topic.Google Scholar

55 Skidmore, T., ‘Workers and Soldiers: Urban Labor Movements and Elite Responses in Twentieth Century Latin America’, in Bernhard, V. (ed.), Elites, Masses, and Modernization in Latin America (Austin, University of Texas Press), p. 86.Google Scholar

56 This is a point made by T. Skidmore, Ibid., and by Roxborough, I., ‘The Analysis of Labour Movements in Latin America’, Bulletin of Latin American Research, vol. 1, no. 1 (10, 1981).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

57 On the origins of Latin American labour movements, see inter alia, Blanchard, P., The Origins of the Peruvian Labor Movement (Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982);Google ScholarFausto, B., Trabalbo Urbana e Conflito Social (Sāo Paulo, DIFEL, 1977);Google ScholarDeShazo, P., Urban Workers and Labor Unions in Chile 1902–1927 (Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1983);Google ScholarPinheiro, P. S.and Hall, M. M. (eds.), A Classe Operaria no Brasil, vol. 1 (Sāo Paulo, Alfa-Omega, 1979); Anderson, R., Outcasts in their Own Land: Mexican Industrial Workers 1906–1911 (de Kalb, Northern Illinois University Press, 1976); Oddone, J., El Gremialismo Proletaria Argentina (Buenos Aires, Galema, 1949); Marotta, S., El Mavimiento Sindical Argentina (Buenos Aires, Libera, 1960); Spalding, H., La Clase Trabajadora Argentina (Buenos Aires, Libera, 1960).Google Scholar

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