The Department of Government is deeply saddened by the death, on 13 October, of George Philip, Emeritus Professor of Comparative and Latin American Politics at the LSE. Born in London in 1951, George Philip received his doctorate from Oxford University and joined the Department of Government in 1976. In a distinguished academic career that spanned over 40 years, he became one of the leading Latin Americanists of his generation.
George Philip’s academic writings addressed key issues of Latin American politics and political economy. His early works focussed on oil and politics in Latin America (Oil and Politics in Latin America: Nationalist Movements and State Companies), a topic on which he wrote extensively throughout his career. But his work was not defined by narrow specialisms (he defined himself as fox rather than a hedgehog in Isaiah Berlin’s terms). He covered, among others, questions about military power (The Military in South American Politics) the condition of democracy in the region (Democracy in Latin America: Surviving Conflict and Crisis?) and the region’s turn to the left in the early 21st Century (The Triumph of Politics. The Return of the Left in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador). George Philip had a special interest in Mexico, a country in which he had an extensive network of academic and political contacts and from where many of his doctoral students came from. His 1992 book, The Presidency in Mexican Politics, became one the most authoritative works on Mexico’s political institutions of the time.
George Philip introduced several generations of both undergraduate and postgraduate students to the politics of Latin America. He had the talent to make the complex politics of the region understandable and compelling for an audience that may have no previous knowledge of it. His graduate seminars often adjourned to one of the LSE pubs, where discussions about politics continued and mixed with debates about culture and, of course, his beloved football. He tutored a large number of PhD students, many of whom went to have important positions in public life in their home countries and made a point of visiting him when back in London. He was a generous mentor for both postgraduate students and junior colleagues. Behind the façade of an Oxford-educated English academic, he had a great sense of humour and was easily approachable.
George Philip occupied positions of responsibility in the Department and in the School. He was Convenor (Head of Department) between 2004 and 2007. At School-level he served as Vice Chancellor (Academic) and in several School committees. Those who worked with him knew his quality. George Philip will be remembered as a top academic, a kind and decent man a generous mentor, and a proud Professor in the Department. He is survived by his wife, Carol.