Modern Latin American Revolutions

Modern Latin American Revolutions

Modern Latin American Revolutions

Modern Latin American Revolutions


Modern Latin American Revolutions, Second Edition, introduces the concept of consolidation of the revolutionary process -- the efforts of revolutionary leaders to transform society and the acceptance by a significant majority of the population of the core of the social revolutionary project. The second edition of this acclaimed book has been revised and updated to include new information on the cases of Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Grenada, assessing the extent to which each revolution was both institutionalized and consolidated. This edition also boasts expanded coverage on Che Gueavara's visionary leadership and an allnew section that addresses the future of revolution in Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Selbin argues that there is a strong link between organizational leadership and the institutionalization process on the one hand, and visionary leadership and the consolidation process on the other. Particular attention is given to the ongoing revolutionary process in Nicaragua, with an emphasis on the implications and ramifications of the 1990 electoral process. A final chapter includes brief analyses of the still unfolding revolutionary processes in El Salvador and Peru.


Revolution remains endlessly fascinating to scholars and activists alike; it is, H. L. Mencken once suggested, the "sex of politics." However, the concept of revolution has lost much of its utility, rendered by excessive and careless usage into little more than a synonym for "watershed" or "turning point" and invoked as a rhetorical device to lend drama or import to far less dramatic, even mundane, occasions. In addition, the use of the term to connote fundamental societal transformation has recently been challenged by the claim that the triumph of capitalism is contemporaneous with the demise of revolution.

Nonetheless, social scientists who continue to debate exact meanings of revolution remain committed to the importance of the concept and the need to finetune it. Revolutions offer us a rare opportunity to glimpse political life in its rawest, most open, and perhaps most revealing form. The drama of revolution lays society bare, providing the opportunity to see the hopes and fears of great numbers of people whose daily struggle is bound up in the mundane questions of where their next meal will come from, how to clothe their children, or how to care for their sick. Suddenly--although in some cases only after an agonizingly long struggle that can last beyond the life of many participants--possibilities seem to abound.

Revolutions thus appear as the most profoundly political moments that occur in any society. Sociologist Michael Kimmel goes as far as to position the concept of revolution as the "centerpiece of all theories about society." Under any set of circumstances, revolution provides an important and critical lens through which to view the world. The human belief in boundless possibilities and the intrinsic ability of people to reshape both the world and themselves present the people involved in the revolutionary process a unique treasure. It is in the revolutionary moment that those people become most accessible to outsiders like us.

There is a rich and lengthy tradition of social science research on revolution. Most of this research has been and continues to be based on what are commonly referred to as the "great revolutions": the French, Russian, Chinese, and, occasion-

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