Before entering the detailed description of contemporary Latin America’s social, economic, political and cultural development over the past decades I would like to delve into some broader introductory issues. The first of these is ‘Where is Latin America?’ in which I seek to get beyond the platitudes of ‘developing region’ type explanations. Situating or characterizing Latin America is, to my mind, a necessary starting point for any analysis. The second theme we need to broach is that of ‘dependency’ both as supposed conditioning element of development in Latin America and, arguably, as the region’s major contribution to international development theory. Latin America is also, again arguably, quite original in terms of the political movements for transformation it has generated. Why has Latin America produced Eva Perron, Ché Guevara, Hugo Chávez, Lula and Evo Morales? What does this tell us about the politics of transformation? Our fourth and final theme concerns the even broader question of Latin America’s particular path to modernity. If it is not a simply copy (albeit backward) of the West, or just a part of the Third World (as for example Africa) what is Latin America’s particular road to modernity? What might this tell us about global development theories?
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