Surveying three decades of land reform efforts in Latin America. Peter Dorner draws upon his experience as both a policy maker and a researcher specializing in land tenure systems. He argues that failures of Latin American land reforms are due to lack of political will and commitment exacerbated by inadequate capital resources. Avoiding polemics, Dorner evaluates the many competing theoretical and ideological positions in the ongoing debates over land reform, from structuralist economics to liberation theology. He then looks at a range of actual reform experiences including local peasant initiatives and international aid projects. Emphasizing the growing complexity of Latin American economies. Dorner aims to demonstrate that solutions successful in one country may fail in another. He concludes that aid and political pressure from the international community can play only a peripheral role. Recognizing that change must come from within. Latin American countries must develop multifaceted approaches to meet objectives based on their own individual experiences. Dorner warns that ""romantic"" expectations for future land reform relying on any one solution will continue to lead to disillusionment. If opportunities for the landless population were actually a top priority of governments and power-brokers, Dorner believes they could be achieved through agrarian reform policies that set clear goals and criteria for implementation. Nevertheless, the potential gains from such a programme are, in most cases more limited now than thirty years ago.
Peter Dorner is professor emeritus of agricultural economics and dean emeritus of international studies and programs at the University of Wisconsin Madison. He has served as a consultant to international agencies and on President Johnson s Council of Economic Advisors. His books include Land Reform in Latin America, Land Reform and Economic Development, Cooperative and Commune, and Resources and Development."