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James W McGuire

Former Fellow


    September 1, 2000 — May 1, 2001

    Professional affiliation

    Associate Professor, Department of Government, Wesleyan University

    Wilson Center Projects

    "Social Policy and Human Development in East Asia and Latin America"

    Full Biography

    Minerals from Minas Gerais in the American Museum of Natural History sparked my initial interest in Brazil. I expanded that interest to the whole of Latin America while attending junior high school in San Diego, which exposed me to the Spanish language and to aspects of Mexican culture. I pursued my interest in Latin America as a political science major at Swarthmore. After five semesters, I took a year off, spending the last four months traveling overland from Istanbul to New Delhi. After graduating from college, I got a job in Brooklyn with a company that employed hundreds of workers to code billions of legal documents for a computerized database. In collaboration with members of the International Typographical Union, I helped to organize my co-workers into a union. As a graduate student in political science at Berkeley, I was able to combine my interest in Latin America with my interest in trade unions by studying Peronism, the labor-based political movement created by Juan Perón in the 1940s. I spent nine months at the Centro de Estudios de Estado y Sociedad in Buenos Aires doing my dissertation research, and six months in a Cree [North American Indian tribe] community in Quebec translating a book on Argentina from Spanish into English. After finishing my Ph.D., I began teaching at Wesleyan. Additional visits to Argentina expanded the temporal and theoretical scope of my research and enabled me to write Peronism without Perón (Stanford, 1997). This book portrayed Peronism as a collective identity built around a personalistic leader, powerful trade unions, and a weakly institutionalized political party. I argued that relations among these actors contributed to political instability in Argentina during the second half of the twentieth century. Through my teaching I was exposed to the work of the economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, and to a literature comparing East Asian to Latin American development. Whereas Sen argued that the analysis of development should focus broadly on the expansion of human capabilities, particularly those related to physical survival, the literature on East Asian and Latin American development focused mainly on income-related indicators like economic growth, evenness of income distribution, and the proportion of the population living in poverty. Rather than add to an already bloated literature on the issue of why, since about 1960, East Asian countries have outpaced Latin American countries on income-related indicators, I decided to focus on why some East Asian and Latin American countries had done better than others at increasing life expectancy and reducing infant mortality. As a Wilson Fellow, I plan to write a book using cross-national and over-time comparisons to explore the proposition that publicly funded social services (e.g., health care), implemented universally or targeted at the poor, can contribute to rapid gains in life expectancy and infant survival, even in a context of slow growth, unequal income distribution, and high income poverty. The cases of Chile and Costa Rica -- contrasted to Argentina and Brazil, South Korea and Taiwan, and Indonesia and Thailand -- suggest that survival chances are partly independent of income expansion, and that positive lessons can be learned from Latin American as well as East Asian countries.




    Political Economy of Developing Countries, Human Development Indicators, Democracy and Democratization, Political Parties and Labor Unions, Latin America (especially Argentina), East Asia



    Major Publications

    • "Labor Union Strength and Human Development in East Asia and Latin America," Studies in Comparative International Development, Winter 1999, pp. 3-34.

    • Peronism Without Perón: Unions, Parties, and Democracy in Argentina (Stanford University Press, 1997)

    • "Development Policy and Its Determinants in East Asia and Latin America," Journal of Public Policy, April 1995, pp. 205-242.