Latin American Land Reforms in Theory and Practice: A Retrospective Analysis
Surveying three decades of land reform efforts in Latin America, Peter Dorner draws upon his broad experience as both a policy maker and a researcher specializing in land tenure systems. He argues that the failures of Latin American land reforms are due to a lack of political will and commitment exacerbated by inadequate capital resources.
Avoiding polemics, Dorner evaluates the many competing theoretical and ideological positions in the ongoing debates over land reform, from structuralist economics to liberation theology. He then looks at a range of actual reform experiences, including local peasant initiatives and international aid projects. Emphasizing the growing complexity of Latin American economies, Dorner demonstrates that solutions successful in one country may fail in another. He concludes that aid and political pressure from the international community can play only a peripheral role. Recognizing that change must come from within, Latin American countries must develop multifaceted approaches to meet objectives based on their own individual experiences.
Dorner warns that "romantic" expectations for future land reform relying on any one solution will continue to lead to disillusionment. If opportunities for the landless population were actually a top priority of governments and power-brokers, Dorner believes, they could be achieved through agrarian reform policies that set clear goals and criteria for implementation. Nevertheless, the potential gains from such a program are, in most cases, more limited now than thirty years ago.
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