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The left has long recognized that in order to understand politics one must study economic power. Traditional, nonmarxist scholarship on politics did not, instead offering chronicles of various great white men and their deeds. Such "analysis" as was offered usually pointed to the wisdom or courage of these leaders, ignoring the complex ways in which economic eIites helped shape political outcomes. The left has also long recognized that to understand politics one must study the working class and peasants, but, again, traditional, nonmarxist scholarship on politics did not, generally ignoring ordinary women and men unless they rudely interrupted the narrative, breaking in as a bestial "angry mob."
It is encouraging, then, that today most scholars of politics, on the right and the left, have accepted the notion that serious analysis requires studying the relationship between politics and economic power and the overall performance of the economy - that is, political economy. Even better, some scholars are beginning to see that an examination of politics is incomplete unless the working class and peasants are included.
Ecuador has long been one of the least studied nations of Latin America, and so the arrival of several books on the nation's political history is certainly good news. Earlier students of Ecuadorian history had little choice but to rely on sweeping general works based, in turn, upon earlier synthetic studies. Thus outdated notions and mistakes became ossified as timeless wisdom. Further, despite deeply felt regional rivalries, especially between the coast and the sierra, too often the writing of Ecuador's history was left to serranos from Quito, the capital city. However, Guayaquil has from colonial times served as Ecuador's commercial center; it was the nation's largest city by the early 20th century and is now about twice the size of Quito. Study of Ecuador's social and economic history and its impact on politics was, until recently, all but ignored (Szaszdi, 1964: 503-550; J. Rodriguez-O., 1973: 95-100; TePaske et al., 1981). Hence, although most past historical writing on Ecuador has focused on national politics, our understanding of these matters was little better for it. Highly polemical, these books generally offered bitter attacks on one of Ecuador's political icons: liberal president Eloy Alfaro or conservative leader Gabriel Garcia Moreno.
By the 1970s, however, a new body of socioeconomic work on Ecuador had begun to appear. On the economy, Julio Estrada Ycaza, the dean of coastal Ecuadorian historians, traced out in Los bancos del siglo XIX (1976) the formation of Ecuador's modem financial system; on socioeconomic matters, Lois Crawford de Roberts's path-breaking El Ecuador en la epoca cacaotera (1980) was a highly readable treatment of the history of the coastal region, and Richard Lee Milk's dissertation "Growth and Development of Ecuador's Worker Organizations" (1979) provided an excellent overview of the nation's labor history. In the late 1980s and thereafter, several writers added even more focused regional studies on social economy, including Enrique Ayala Mora (1983-1990), Carmen Duenas de Anhalzer (1991), Linda A. Newson ("Old World Epidemics in Early Colonial Ecuador") and Suzanne Austin Alchon ("Disease, Population, and Public Health in Eighteenth-Century Quito") in Cook and Lowell (1991), and Pineo (1996).
These works, by supplying a better understanding of Ecuadorian economy and society, laid the foundation for more sophisticated treatments of political history. New studies of politics included Roger P. Davis's splendid "Ecuador Under Gran Colombia, 1820-1830: Regionalism, Localism, and Legitimacy in the Emergence of an Andean Republic" (1983), Linda Alexander Rodriguez's award-winning The Search for Public Policy: Regional Politics and Government Finances in Ecuador, 18301940 (1985), and Catherine M. Conaghan's analytically sophisticated Restructuring Domination: Industrialists and the State in Ecuador (1988).(1)
Several factors, both analytical and practical, contributed to this upsurge in writing on Ecuador. Those interested in studying Latin American populism, reform-oriented military governments, oil-exporting nations, or successful transitions to democracy turned to Ecuador because it provided valuable illustrations of these important Latin American phenomena. Perhaps more to the point, the violence of civil war and the illegal drug trade drove researchers away from the other Andean nations, and Ecuador became at times the only safe place in the Andean region to do research.
Given the growth of the field, it is time to take a measure of our progress. This essay will review a sampling of recent works on Ecuadorian politics. The best of them offer a more detailed understanding of Ecuadorian politics by incorporating consideration of economic and social developments.
The books under review share several key themes and analytical concerns. Spindler (1987), Van Aken (1989), and Albornoz (1989) all adopt traditional historical approaches - narrative, diplomatic, and polemical. Of the three books, Van Aken's is the most valuable. The three others, Morner (1985), Schodt (1987), and Martz (1987), make far better use of recent monographic research, adding socioeconomic analysis to their political overviews. However, as Morner's effort makes plain, expanding one's agenda to include socioeconomics does not by itself guarantee analytical insight.
College teachers of Andean history have long turned to Fredrick B. Pike's well-written synthesis The United States and the Andean Republics: Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador (1977). However, the appearance of the new monographic studies generated a need for a fresh overview that could pull together the best of the recent literature. Magnus Morner seeks in The Andean Past to do this, …