On Cuban Political Exceptionalism

  • Laurence Whitehead
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


Comparative politics is a curious field of academic endeavor. It is about detecting commonalities between political processes that are in many of the most fundamental respects unique. All political histories are exceptional, but the political history of Cuba is so to an exceptional degree, as is demonstrated here. This chapter seeks to place current discussions about the foreseeable demise of the Castro regime, and alternative post-Castro scenarios, in a broader historical and comparative perspective. The objective is to explore the implications of Cuban political exceptionalism and not to essentialize it. Such an exploration is intended to broaden the repertoire of resources for thinking about possible post-Castro and even postcommunist transition scenarios. It should not be expected to generate any highly predictive conclusions, since an exceptionalist tradition can develop in multiple directions.


French Revolution Comparative Politics Constructivist Perspective Soviet Bloc Constitutional Democracy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    For the international relations debate between realists and constructivists see Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse, and Beth A. Simmons (eds.), A Handbook of International Relations (New York: Sage, 2001), chapters 3–5.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    A chapter of this type contains many historical assertions that are not developed in detail and have therefore not been sourced. My interpretations are solely my own responsibility but draw on the three relevant chapters of the Cambridge History of Latin America and their accompanying bibliographies, as follows: Leslie A. Bethell (ed.), Cuba: A Short History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), particularly the chapters by Luis E. Aguilar (“Cuba, c. 1860–c. 1930,” pp. 21–56); Louis A. Pérez Jr. (“Cuba, c. 1930–c. 1959,” pp. 57–94); and Jorge I. Domínguez (“Cuba since 1959,” pp. 95–148).Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    For a recent survey of a century of U.S. policy toward Cuba, focusing on the supposed objective of democracy promotion, see Lars Schoultz, “Blessings of Liberty: The United States and the Promotion of Democracy in Cuba,” Journal of Latin American Studies, 34 (2), May 2002: 397–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 15.
    Biancamaría Fontana (ed.), Constant: Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 73–74.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    Benjamin Constant, Écrits Politíques (Paris: Gallimard, 1997), p. 753 (my translation).Google Scholar
  6. 24.
    Laurence Whitehead, Democratization: Theory and Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Bert Hoffmann and Laurence Whitehead 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurence Whitehead

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations