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Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 1-4
Título: 1997
Sección: Reseñas Informativas / Informative Reviews

Emelio BETANCES. State and Society in the Dominican Republic. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995. xviii, 162 p., bibliography, index.

In his book, State and Society in the Dominican Republic, Emelio Betances analyzes the formation of the Dominican state at the end of the 19th century and explores the development of state society relations since then to the present. Great attention is paid to the impact of the U.S. interventionism on the process of state formation and with the role of the state in shaping social structure.

In examining the formation of the state, the author draws a clear line between political regimes and the state. Betances’ research attempts to show how the international dimension of class relations interacts with local social structures in shaping the state in the periphery.

The author stresses the crucial role that foreign intervention has played in the development of the Dominican state. However, the internal political dynamic has also been critical to state formation because the state has provided the main source of revenue and social space for local political elites.

The book has been divided into eight chapters that examine from a political point of view the Dominican history of the 19th and 20th centuries. The first and second chapters present the difficulties of state formation during the time period from independence in 1844 to the 1880s. The struggles between emerging commercial bourgeoisie and the declining ranchers precluded the formation of a social pact that could serve as the foundation for a national government. The lack of integration between those two systems constrained the organization of political power and obstructed the development of a national bourgeoisie.

The third chapter describes how in the second half of the 19th century, a class of local and foreign merchants evolved in the Dominican Republic and how their marginality in relation to the main economic activities of the country hampered their ability to influence national politics in the face of the growing U.S. control of Dominican finances. The fourth chapter is a description of the attempts and failure by Heureaux (1882-1899) and Caceres (1906-1911) to build a strong and modern national state. In the fifth chapter, the author argues that the U.S. military occupation of 1916 completed the basis for a modern state that served U.S. interests in the region. In chapter six, the reader finds a description of the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and his efforts to create a modern Dominican state.

In the last chapters, Betances analyzes first the economic and social changes experienced in the Dominican Republic that made the presidency of Balaguer possible and secondly, he raises different questions on the future of the Dominican Republic, concluding that despite the transformations made, the Dominican Republic remains an authoritarian rather than a democratic state.


1. Estas reseñas fueron preparadas por las sugientes funcionarias de la Secretaría Ejecutiva para el Desarrollo Integral/These reviews were prepared by the following staff members of the Exeuctive Secretariat for Integral Development: María del Carmen Barreneche, María de Icaza, María Teresa Mellenkamp, y Rosario Villanueva Popovici.