Thursday, February 03, 2005

Regime Classification, Comparisons and Cleavages

Hi Class,

Fátima is very active writing to me, and I am very happy answering her questions (or at least doing my best) so here are some additional questions followed by my answers:

* Would my topic still stand although it is a generalization. Of course I would speak of the importance of liberties to Latin Americans but I do not want to get into the political issues between cuba and the US, or should I? Or would it be less broad if I concentrate on just one case(country) and its social and civil issues.

* Would it be best to compare Cuba before Fidel and the present with Fidel, such that I compare the social and economic changes without referring to the citizens preferences. I can incorporate the US relations with Cuba without encompassing the entire paper of their sticky relationship. Or should I stay away from Cuba?

* My interest stems from the documentary, and I just feel that covering all of Cuba-US's relationship will take over my paper, I want to deal with the socioeconomic changes within a country that come from govt changes, is there a country that would better suit this topic.

The problem with Cuba is that there is no way to put the confrontation with the US government aside. All over La Habana, Santiago and any other city you can see the traces of the confrontation. You can see it from Mexico or form the Dominican Republic. It is a bleeding wound and many actors profit from it: Cuba's totalitarian government, the US imperialist foreign policy. Moreover, it definetely shapes preferences and choices of individual actors outside and inside the Island. It shapes programs like Radio Martí and all the phony (to say the least) "fellowships" that some leaders of the Cuban opposition receive from rather hard to identify foundations here in the States (Have you seen Oliver Stone's documentary and interview with Fidel?).

I am sure that in many cases (I know specific persons in Mexico, as an example) that will be willing to trade-off freedoms for a Welfare State, but the specifics must be reviewed on a case by case basis, being aware that generalizations at a regional level are hard to support, unless you have very specific information.

Now, I am not denying the value of your argument. I can see it even here in the States (you can say that such happens also here in the US with the very intrusive monitoring of activities of groups seen as "dangerous" by the US Department of Homeland Security), I am just saying that you need to be aware of the national differences.

Any comparisson is plausible and possible. Cuba and Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Argentina. Cuba pre and post-Fidel. The issue here is availability of information. How much info do you have on pre-Fidel Cuba? How much would you be able to gather from here until, one month?

The question is more Are you really interested in Cuba? If so, go for it. If you only have a marginal interest on Cuba (and perhaps that is why you do not want to deal with the US-Cuba rift) then do not go there, because there is no way to understand how people in Cuba deal with the regime if you do not take into account the US-Cuba quarrel.

The US-Cuba relation is a critical feature for any research dealing with Cuba, no matter if it is sport, religion, family or any other topic. I do not think that you should be worried about touching ground on it. You can dedicate two pages to that issue as a part of the context and that is it. You do not need to re-do the history of the US-Cuba conflict. There are excellent summaries already available for that.

For all countries you will be able to find topics like that, that are crucial to understand that country. Lets say, if you are writing about Mexico you cannot avoid talking about the 70 years of government from one-single party. If you do it about Argentina you cannot avoid talking about the Partido Justicialista (Peronismo), and so forth and so on. You can think of these topics as cleavages. Political Scientists use that concept to talk about issue that divide deeply a country: Church-State relations in Mexico, Spain or Italy; abortion in the case of the US; the US in the case of Cuba. For any country you can find a topic like that, a topic that is so central that yes, it looks as if it could take over a paper on other topics, but is not a forced outcome, you can control that.

Again, any country, any combination of countries is fine. You just need to say the word: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Argentina...

Ah, and of course, for any country in the region you can find evidence of that connection, and also of the trade-off freedom-goods/services, but you need to consider it within the specific context of that country.

A final word on cleavages.

The paper Cleavages by Stefano Bartolini of the European University Institute, offers a good introduction to its use and gives you a sense of how you can apply it to different topics.


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