Blood and Debt: War and the Nation-State in Latin America

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9780271021652: Blood and Debt: War and the Nation-State in Latin America

What role does war play in political development? Our understanding of the rise of the nation-state is based heavily on the Western European experience of war. Challenging the dominance of this model, Blood and Debt looks at Latin America's much different experience as more relevant to politics today in regions as varied as the Balkans and sub-Saharan Africa.

The book's illuminating review of the relatively peaceful history of Latin America from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries reveals the lack of two critical prerequisites needed for war: a political and military culture oriented toward international violence, and the state institutional capacity to carry it out. Using innovative new data such as tax receipts, naming of streets and public monuments, and conscription records, the author carefully examines how war affected the fiscal development of the state, the creation of national identity, and claims to citizenship. Rather than building nation-states and fostering democratic citizenship, he shows, war in Latin America destroyed institutions, confirmed internal divisions, and killed many without purpose or glory.

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About the Author:

Miguel Angel Centeno is Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. His Democracy Within Reason (Penn State, 1994; revised edition, 1997) was named an "Outstanding Academic Book" by Choice.

Review:

Blood and Debt is much too rich in concepts and supporting descriptive events to give deserved justice in a brief review. Clearly, it is an outstanding study, destined to be the standard work in the area for some time to come.”

—Robert Looney, Journal of Political and Military Sociology



“However, Centeno’s path breaking book will stimulate a wealth of follow-on studies.”

—Robert Looney, Journal of Political and Military Sociology



“Miguel Centeno (a sociologist) has taken a hard and detailed look at relationships between war, the military, and the state in Latin America in a most incisive work.”

—Frederick M. Nunn, Latin American Research Review



“Meticulously researched, Miguel Centeno’s provocative study presents a comprehensive account of Latin America’s proclivity to go to war over the past 200 years and the consequences of that proclivity. . . . Centeno’s ambitious study will undoubtedly provoke much debate and further research. Its unique perspective and impressive breadth represent an important contribution to Latin American political sociology that will challenge researchers in a variety of specializations for some time to come.”

—Philip Oxhorn, American Journal of Sociology



“Amid today's impenetrable postmodern jargon, it is a joy to discover a sociologist who not only writes good English but who opens up important questions previously neglected by scholars. . . . Based on wide historical reading, Centeno has broken much new ground in this major contribution.”

—Foreign Affairs



“Centeno's book balances shrewdly between identifying distinctive properties of Latin American national patterns, on one side, and integrating Latin American histories into international comparisons, on the other. Ingeniously piecing together fugitive evidence on wars, military organization, commemorations, taxation, and state structure, he thereby challenges two extreme tendencies: to treat Latin America as a failed Europe, and to stress the utter particularism of Latin America.”

—Charles Tilly, Columbia University



“Miguel Angel Centeno's trailblazing book sheds much new light on Latin America by paying proper attention to its distinctive ways of making war and the connections of warfare to state development, to national identities, and to the nature of citizenship.”

—John Markoff, University of Pittsburgh

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