How do ideologies of development shape the perceptions of security threats of US foreign policymakers and the political and military leaders of developing countries? What is the relationship between development, democracy, and military coups? How does US foreign aid affect political stability in recipient countries? These are some of the questions addressed in Thomas Field’s fantastic book
From Development to Dictatorship: Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era (Cornell UP, 2014).The book focuses on the relationship between the Kennedy administration and the Bolivian government headed by Victor Paz Estenssoro, a former hero of the Bolivian Revolution, as it attempted to generate economic development and built a centralized state in the vast, landlocked, geographically and ethnically diverse country. Field shows how US support for economic restructuring in the mining sector created clashes between the government and labor unions that undermined Paz’s legitimacy, and how Paz government’s reliance on the military to build infrastructure and execute development programs in the countryside -- a strategy that US policymakers supported wholeheartedly -- increased the political profile of the military and made a military coup increasingly likely. The book ends with Paz’s overthrow in a coup in 1964.
Thomas Field Jr. is an Associate Professor of Global Security and Intelligence at Emory-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. He holds a Master’s degree from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in international history from the London School of Economics. Most recently, he co-edited a volume called Latin America’s Cold War, which examines how the Cold War international system interacted with regional and national political dynamics (and was also the subject of a New Books Network interview).