The Fall and Rise of the Market in Sandinista Nicaragua


328 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1359-0
DDC 330.97258'053





Reviewed by Ronald N. Harpelle

Ronald N. Harpelle is an assistant professor of history at the
University of Manitoba.


This book offers a much-needed critique of a failed socialist experiment
in Latin America. Ryan writes both as an observer of and as a
participant in the Nicaraguan revolution. He explores the difficulties
encountered by the Sandinista leadership in their efforts to steer the
country along a particular path to economic and social development, and
he offers a postmortem of the Sandinista attempt to achieve
revolutionary change within a nonrevolutionary global economy.

The first part of the book establishes the historical context for
Sandinista rule in 1979. The author then focuses on what he identifies
as the four phases of revolutionary rule. He begins with the
government’s postwar reconstruction efforts; but these failed to
address the lingering political tensions. Then the failure of the
Sandinistas to maintain middle-class support resulted in a stagnant
economy and the failure of the revolution. As a consequence, the
Sandinistas reluctantly turned to market-driven policies, which
culminated with the triumph of market forces over the revolution.

Ryan targets a handful of key issues—agrarian reform, the role of the
bourgeoisie, and the hand of the state in the market—as the terrain on
which the Sandinistas’ battle for revolutionary change was lost, and
concludes that the political, social, and economic contradictions of
Sandinista Nicaragua resulted in the failure of the revolution.

This interesting book is a welcome addition to the literature on
Central America and modern revolutions.


Ryan, Phil., “The Fall and Rise of the Market in Sandinista Nicaragua,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024,