Brockett, Charles D. 1946–

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Brockett, Charles D. 1946–


Born December 21, 1946. Education: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Ph.D., 1974.


Office—Sewanee: The University of the South, 735 University Ave., Sewanee, TN 37383. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, educator. Sewanee: The University of the South, Sewanee, TN, professor, 1979—, Biehl Professor of International Studies.


Choice Academic Book of the Year, 1988, for Land, Power, and Poverty: Agrarian Transformation and Political Conflict in Central America; Fulbright fellow, 1995, 2000, and 2004.


(Editor, with others) Agrarian Reform in Reverse: The Food Crisis in the Third World, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1987.

Land, Power, and Poverty: Agrarian Transformation and Political Conflict in Central America, Unwin Hyman (Boston, MA), 1988, revised edition, 1990, 2nd edition, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1998.

Political Movements and Violence in Central America, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of articles to scholarly journals.


A professor of political science, Charles D. Brockett specializes in Central American affairs, particularly agrarian matters and the formation of political movements in the region. His 1988 Land, Power, and Poverty: Agrarian Transformation and Political Conflict in Central America has been updated twice since then, the first edition being "much honoured," as Journal of Latin American Studies reviewer William C. Thiesenhusen commented. In the 1998 edition, Brockett "documents the rapidly changing contemporary period for rural Central America," according to Thiesenhusen. Brockett's first edition was published during a period of political and civil unrest in Central America, and each of the editions documents the conditions leading up to the civil wars fought in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Additionally, the author details the work of the labor movement in Honduras which seemed to dissipate tensions and allow that country to avoid civil unrest. Similarly, Brockett looks at the unique situation of Costa Rica, a country that so differs from others in Central America. Brockett shows that unrest in the region was largely the result of the inequalities in land ownership, which in turn was the result not only of the original conquest of the region, but also of the decision in the post-World War II period to devote land production to export products rather than for local food consumption. Malnutrition amongst the peasantry resulted; while the rich became ever richer, the rural poor slipped farther into poverty. Costa Rica is the exception to this picture, as Brockett shows, a country where the social and economic strata are not so hugely differentiated. However, in the other countries of Central America, peasant organizations arose to combat the inequalities, and civil war ensued. As Thiesenhusen noted: "The argument Brockett makes is not that there is something inherently wrong with export agriculture, but that in the absence of structural reforms, rural unrest is generated which is met with minor reforms and/or serious repression by military and paramilitary forces." The author goes on to show in his 1998 edition that such inequalities are not as extreme as they were a couple of decades earlier, and land redistribution in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras has helped to alleviate the plight of the peasantry. However, such reforms have not been universal, and in Guatemala the condition of the rural poor is still precarious. For Thiesenhusen, the 1998 edition of Land, Power, and Poverty "lives up to expectations [of the first edition], in terms of scholarship, clear writing, and logical organisation."

Brockett examines further aspects of Central America in his 2005 Political Movements and Violence inCentral America. Here he presents, as Latin American Politics and Society contributor M. Gabriela Torres noted, a "detailed analysis of the major trends in mass political movements in Guatemala and El Salvador." His aim, as Torres further commented, is to demonstrate "the paradoxical relationship between these types of contentious movements and repression." His conclusions are variable, for he found that the attempts by the state to use violent measures to repress political activity had differing results depending on a variety of factors. These factors included, according to Torres, the "degree and coherence of the repressive tactics wielded; the level of political activity at the time that repression is applied; and a complex range of motivations, emotions, associations, and relationships that are unique to the individuals involved in political movements." Brockett examines Guatemala during the period from 1955 to 1985, and El Salvador from 1960 to 1990, following the cycles of protest and repression in each country, and using original documents for his research. Torres went on to praise Political Movements and Violence in Central America: "This book stands out in the literature that deals with Guatemala and El Salvador because it puts together interconnected historical phenomena that are habitually studied in isolation: the development of violent and nonviolent political movements and the practice of governance through political violence." Writing in the Political Science Quarterly, John A. Booth also commended Brockett's study, observing that it "contributes importantly to our understanding of how citizens, organizations, and activists solved the collective action paradox in the immensely coercive political contexts of Guatemala and El Salvador."



Choice, September, 2005, M.A. Morris, review of Political Movements and Violence in Central America, p. 181.

Contemporary Sociology, March, 2007, Richard A. Dello Buono, review of Political Movements and Violence in Central America, p. 173.

Hispanic American Historical Review, May, 1989, David McCreery, review of Land, Power, and Poverty: Agrarian Transformation and Political Conflict in Central America, p. 351.

Journal of Latin American Studies, February, 1989, Lars Pira, review of Land, Power, and Poverty, p. 173; October, 1999, William C. Thiesenhusen, review of Land, Power, and Poverty, p. 774.

Latin American Politics and Society, winter, 2006, M. Gabriela Torres, review of Political Movements and Violence in Central America.

Latin American Research Review, winter, 1989, Michael W. Foley, review of Agrarian Reform in Reverse: The Food Crisis in the Third World.

Political Science Quarterly, spring, 2006, John A. Booth, review of Political Movements and Violence in Central America.


Sewanee University Web site, (May 1, 2008), "Professor Brockett Earns Fulbright for Study."