This section includes book notes of 150-300 words as well as some book reviews of 600-900 words on books of particular interest to the members of our group. If you have either suggestions for books you would like to review or see reviewed (including recent books of your own), please contact Nigel Copsey of the University of Teesside (UK).
Kirk S. Bowman, Militarization, Democracy and Development: The Perils of Praetorianism in Latin America, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002, 289 pp., USD 25.00, ISBN: 0-271-02229-9 (pbk).
Reviewed by John Gledhill (The University of Manchester)
Bowman’s meticulously argued book shows that quantitative and qualitative analysis can mix productively. His thesis is that armies in Latin America have been bad for democracy and development, and that other countries in the region would have done better had they followed Costa Rica’s example and demilitarized before the United States fostered the bloating of military apparatuses in the decades after a CIA-backed coup overthrew the reformist Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954. Bowman does not claim that possessing armies which have little to do except influence the course of domestic politics and run businesses is the only factor responsible for Latin America’s problems, but he does neatly expose the fallacy of analyses carried out at world level that show a positive general relationship between militarization and “development”, thereby offering an interesting defence of the value of area studies in the era of globalization.
The qualitative study compares Costa Rica with Honduras, described even by Voice of America in the 1990s as “a military with a country”. Refuting much conventional wisdom, Bowman makes a significant contribution here to a more nuanced understanding of the political history of Central America. Although more could be said about other subregions and more recent periods than is contained in the chapter on the “lost decade” of the 1980s, by combining a focus on class, state and transnational power, this analysis does more than consider the USA’s role in the region’s affairs, though its lessons on