Two hundred pages of witty but rather tourist-guide history and anthropology precede Collier's systematic analysis of Latin American politics, which while not original is generally competent. On the far Right stand various kinds of traditionalists and extremists and so forth through the spectrum to New Left and fascist radicals. Collier, a well-known British student of Hispanic currents, renders his own preferences with journalistic indirection rather than apostrophes -- for the military ""nation-building"" model of the Peruvian junta, and the ""economic renaissance"" of Brazil, whose less liberal-looking rulers he, however, mistrusts. Unfortunately Collier goes into little detail about how Peruvian co-determination structures and Brazilian recycling and wage-indexing of the labor force have actually affected living standards and working conditions. The requisite references to personalist Latin traditions of government lack new insight, and the discussions of land patterns, population increase, family culture and the economics of imperialism remain rather shallow. Good introductions to Latin American history as a whole seem hard to come by; this one is too empirical and rapid to give the uninitiated a conceptual sense of questions and themes.