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Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674136496
ISBN-10: 0674136497
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Over the past three decades, nearly every Central American nation has been at some stage of revolution, and understanding the numerous conflicts required a keen grasp of local politics. The facts were especially hard to discern because other countries, principally the United States, were throwing their weight around and muddying the political water. Now with a nascent peace shakily in place in Guatemala, the last conflict has come to an end, and Jeffrey M. Paige sheds some necessary light on the issues without lumping the entire region together. By focusing on the lucrative and influential business of coffee production and its connection to politics, Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America looks at the shift toward democracy from the perspective of the elite class of coffee growers. Though the different nations share a common agricultural mainstay, the socioeconomic realities vary greatly, and Paige expertly negotiates the subtleties of each. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A sweeping historical analysis of the encouraging yet still fragile emergence of democracy in Central America...Through exhaustive historical research and enterprising interviews, [the author] penetrates the worlds of the most powerful families of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica...Paige has illuminated a path for comprehending countries whose histories have often been caricatured by polemicists and ignored by policy makers. (Thomas Carothers New York Times Book Review)

A detailed, comprehensive work on the complex relationship between coffee and political and financial might in this region...Coffee is evidently not the sole influence propelling these nations along the democratic path, but this volume demonstrates how ideologies and crises are interrelated, an important factor for a region with such an uncertain political future. (British Bulletin of Publications on Latin America, the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain)

The main lesson from this thoughtful, well-written book: if coffee is grown with less repression, with social welfare programs, with more owned by small-holders, then the poor are less likely to join revolutions...[Paige's conclusions] are reasonable and it is important to have them documented in this fair, well-researched book. This book will appeal to people interested in the history of Central America, to students of peace and war, to scholars of coffee economics and politics, and to political ecologists. (Jeffery W. Bentley Agriculture and Human Values)

Coffee and Power makes an important contribution to the literature on transitions to democracy. Paige notes with irony that the establishment of parliamentary democracies may represent the most important achievement of the Salvadoran and Nicaraguan Left of the 1980s, as it was for the Costa Rican Left of the 1930s and 1940s. (Laurie Medina American Anthropologist)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 13, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674136497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674136496
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good book. Had to read it for a Central America Course and the writing is very good. This is an academic work which uses interviews to demonstrate the relation between Power and Coffee in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The author interviews the coffee elite from each country. It offers the historical background of their rise, there thoughts beliefs and justification for action taking from 1930 to 1980 the 2 eras of great revolutionary crisis and how Costa Rica developed differently than the other 3 countries. The main idea is that Costa Rican Elite had a division between land owners and processors allowing for a more democratic flow of ideas, compromise and they avoid the suppression of the other countries. US involvement also played a critical role in the other 3 countries while leaving Costa Rica mostly untouched. Important read for anyone that wants to understand the development of Central America and why their governments are the way they are today. Or anyone wanting an in-depth analysis of the revolutionary periods in Central America in 1930's and the 1980's through the eyes of each countries elite.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jeffrey Paige is an excellent sociologist who provides an in-depth look at three countries in Central America. Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador are all explored throughout this book. There are occasional references to Guatemala but overall the other three are considered because their development has similarities. While they are different in the way they developed economically and socially they came form similar backgrounds. Similar governments formed in all three according to Paige and the effects of this were to drive these countries into a relationship where elites hold power. The social elites of the coffee producers provide an interesting case study to follow. They provide the driving force for dictatorships and while the Depression of 1929 gives fuel to the communist fire the elites retain a wide range of control. El Salvador is shown to be both a civil war and a terrorist problem that must be dealt with by resolution of local politics. Nicaragua is shown through the Somoza regime which grew out of the US marine intervention, dollar diplomacy and our support of the conservatives in that country. The sociological study comes across as scattered at times but in the end provides a useful analysis when considering the disparity in incomes throughout Central America. This book is not for beginners and historians should use it carefully. For those in sociology it is a very useful study filled with many primary accounts.
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Format: Paperback
Primarily for those who are pursuing advanced degrees in latin american studies, sociology, economics, etc. The chief meat of the book is the author's interviews with various coffee "elites" in the central american region, and their view on business and politics. Loses a star because it jumps around a bit, it is not exactly for someone just getting to know the region (like me), and it's a bit dry at times. So, approach this book with a bit of caution.
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