Jorge Castaneda

Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies, National Autonomous University of Mexico / New York University

U.S.-Mexican Relations Today, 1/18/2000
Prospects for Change in Latin America, 1/20/2000

Jorge Castaneda, at present a visiting professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at New York University, is one of the most influential public intellectuals and most outstanding social scientists in Mexico. Through regular publications in foreign policy journals, leading newspapers and magazines, Castaneda commands extraordinary international visibility as a scholar, author, and columnist, speaking to issues concerning US-Mexican relations and the post-Cold War impact on third world prospects for democratic development and social change.

Throughout his distinguished career, Castaneda has established himself as one of the leading social scientists in the hemisphere. After receiving his B.A. from Princeton University, Castaneda went on to pursue several advanced degrees at the Universite de Paris including a doctorate in Economic History. His numerous fellowships and appointments attest to his level of achievement and recognition. Castaneda has served as a professor in the Graduate school in the National Autonomous University of Mexico for over 20 years. During that time he has held appointments as a visiting professor at Dartmouth, New York University, University of California, Berkeley and Princeton. In addition, he is a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation research grant. Castaneda's scholarly recognition derives from the quality of his publications. Since 1980 he has authored ten books, including four written in English.

His 1993 publication, Utopia Unarmed, is a tour de force. This book offers a careful historical recreation of the contemporary history of the Latin American Left since the Cuban Revolution. He combines a top-down analysis of the impact of the Cuban Revolution with a detailed social history of those environments in which social and political movements emerged. Castaneda, himself, had personal and political relations with some of the key historic figures on the Left and therefore the level and scope and intimacy of detail achieved in this work has never been matched. At the same time, Castaneda directs his research towards the everyday life of marginalized barrios to connect thoughtfully with its inhabitants, using the skills of an accomplished ethnographer. Castaneda concludes with a stunning portrait of the Left suffering a severe identity crisis in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and offers insightful suggestions for a new road that might be followed.

Castaneda's influence extends well beyond the academic community. Through regular columns in the Los Angeles Times, Reforma (Mexico), El Pais (Madrid), La Nacion (Argentina), El Tiempo (Columbia), El Nacional (Venezuela) and Newsweek International, he has attracted a large international audience. His articles are widely read and appreciated in large part because of Castaneda's unique policy perspective, which in turn derives from his peculiar insider/outsider status. Although a dissident from the Partido Institutional Revolucionario, the official party, Castaneda has nonetheless been called upon by the Mexican government to serve in an advisory capacity. Particularly important was his role in formulating Mexican Policy about Central America during the decade of civil wars if the 1980s. Similarly, though often critical of the United States policy in the region, Castaneda has become an important voice in the United States foreign policy community. Thus he has testified before Congress, has been a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and has served as visiting professor at the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs.