Contemporary Paradigms in the Study of Inter-American Relations

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This chapter reviews some of the literature on the study of inter-American relations in order to demonstrate the extent to which the two paradigms currently dominate analyses in the field. Conventional science, and its contemporary off-shoots such as the liberal-developmental paradigm, emphasize a methodology based on maximizing quantitative data. Dominguez bemoans the pluralistic, nonparadigmatic state of inter-American studies; Bodenheimer claims that social scientists’ blindness to the existence of an all-encompassing approach prevents them from realizing that although they may be using different oars, they are all rowing in the same boat. The organizational-ideology paradigm, best represented by the preliminary efforts of Guillermo O’Donnell, comes closest to being a new approach, while representing a serious effort at synthesizing and bridging other paradigms. The autonomy assumption makes it possible for some to discuss Latin American development programs and foreign policies with barely a nod to US influence.