Introduction: Still Provoking and Spurring the Understanding of World Politics
This essay introduces a collection of critical reflections on the legacy of Howard J. Wiarda, whose research spanned comparative politics and international relations, with special attention to his work on Latin America and the role of think tanks and political practitioners. Wiarda offered a consistent critique of deterministic and universal paradigms in comparative politics and in U.S. foreign policy and insisted on the importance of understanding local political culture and historic traditions. His criticisms of U.S. academic theories, and later of U.S. foreign policy makers, resulted from his position as a perpetual outsider and observer within both scholarly and policy-making communities. The essays introduced here critically engage with areas where Wiarda’s provocative critiques contributed to important discussions and insights. Specifically, the symposium includes accounts of his visions of grand theory, corporatism, think tanks, informality, U.S. politics, developmentalism, human rights, and U.S. foreign policy towards the Caribbean. The authors agree that his work was characterized by a striking vitality and ability to foment discussion, although they differ on how well his insights or approaches have held up over time.
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