The Soul of Latin America

The Cultural and Political Tradition

Howard J. Wiarda

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To understand Latin America’s political culture, and to understand why it differs so greatly from that of the United States, one must look beyond the political history of the region, Howard J. Wiarda explains in this comprehensive book. A highly respected expert on Latin American politics, Wiarda explores a sweeping array of Iberian and Latin American social, economic, institutional, cultural, and religious factors from ancient times to the twentieth century. He illuminates the distinctive political attitudes and traditions of Latin America as well as the unique—and not widely understood—features of present-day Latin American models of democracy.

While Ibero-American and Western liberal traditions draw from the same classical thinkers, they often emphasize different ideas and reach different conclusions, Wiarda contends. He traces the influences of Rome, Islam, medieval Christianity, the Reconquest, and Iberian feudalism, and the powerful but largely unacknowledged effects of the Counter-Reformation on Iberian and Latin American civilizations. The author concludes with a discussion of recent changes in political culture and an assessment of the strength of democracy’s hold in the nations of Latin America.

Howard J. Wiarda is Leonard Horwitz Professor of Iberian and Latin American Studies, professor of political science, and professor of comparative labor relations at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is also senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“Detailed and sweeping, this book provides a provocative account of the distinctive character of the Latin American political tradition.”—Paul E. Sigmund

“[A] comprehensive synopsis of defining ideas in Latin America. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

“[The author’s] provocative synthesis will add to the ongoing debate about democracy’s prospects in Latin America and the limits on what outsiders can do to promote it.”—Kenneth Maxwell, Foreign Affairs

“Similar to Samual P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, Wiarda’s The Soul of Latin America presents a picture of an essentialist Latin American civilization that emanates from a primordial Iberian fount whose traditions display a remarkable historical continuity to the present, creating an irreconcilable dichotomy with U. S. civilization. . . . Wiarda, well versed in political theory, does an excellent job of tracing the western intellectual and cultural origins of the Iberian tradition that the conquistadors brought with them to the Americas. . . . The Soul of Latin America does an outstanding job of providing a general introduction to the Latin American political tradition by presenting the ideas of little-known Iberian and Latin American political theorists and philosophers to an Anglo-Saxon audience. . . . The book will prove quite useful to an undergraduate audience as an introduction to the Latin American political tradition.”—Carlos Pérez, History: Reviews of New Books

“Wiarda’s scope, to say the least, is wide: he covers a broad range of Iberian and Latin American history in a rather compact text, swiftly and with a surprising and impressive amount of detail. . . . He provides an insightful beginning text for anyone interested in Latin America or any of its very different countries.”—Publishers Weekly

“In what is sure to become a new core text for classes on Latin American politics, Wiarda illuminates the political tradition of Latin America by examining first their earliest influences, then the effect of modern ideologies such as positivism, Marxism, and corporatism.”—Reference & Research Book News

"Wiarda produced this magnum opus after decades of scholarship on Latin American politics. . . . A comprehensive synopsis of Iberian and Latin American intellectual history. . . . In the classroom, I found this book to be an excellent catalyst for discussion."—Barry Levitt, Latin American Research Review

The Soul of Latin America challenges conventional wisdom in the United States and Northern Europe concerning Ibero-America’s political thought and traditions. This book has powerful implications for U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.”—David J. Myers, Pennsylvania State University

Selected by Choice as a 2003 Outstanding Academic Title
ISBN: 9780300098365
Publication Date: February 8, 2003
432 pages, 6 x 9