"Latinoamerica": Reflections around Globalization, State, Nationhood, and Development

Article excerpt


The aim of this paper is to analyze the relation between state and nation in the light of systemic changes since the late 1980s; a period of time that has been generally identified with the word "globalization". This concept is still a rather loose one that does not yet define an established system, but rather, a period of rapid changes in the transformation of the global capitalist system. Two major changes that we want to point out are: a) the emergence of the United Nations System in 1945; and b) the end of bipolarity after the Cold War, with the strengthening of new global "spheres of authority" made up by markets, multilateral entities, international organizations and new forms of global networks. There are also lines of continuity where one of the most relevant is the maintenance of the nation-state as a central pillar of the system. Yet, this "continuity" is increasingly eroding, leading to a dilemma which is one of our central tenets: at the same time that the position of nation-states seems to be loosing strength, there is also a growing request for states to take action and solve problems. The hypothesis discussed in this article is that such "dilemma" requires a re-thinking about "state" and "nation" in relation to the new geography of international relations. As we see it globalization is forcing all nations to redefine themselves and their state-organizations. Still, the challenge is different for each institutional environment. Albeit current systemic changes might carry a strong homogenizing force, there is also a strong heterogeneity in the way in which different cultures cope with changes. We chose here to analyze this transformation from an always conceptually difficult "Latin American" perspective.

The article begins with a general discussion around what we see as "systemic changes", which is the macro level in which we set the Latin American context. This part contains a deeper discussion around the concept "globalization", analyzing some of the main features of the transformations since the end of the Cold War. Focusing on the issue of "steering states in a globalizing world", we discuss how the traditional way of conceiving "state" and "nation" (domain, composition or even raison d'etre) is changing, and the implication this has in the very form of exerting "power". The following section focus on Latin America, where we analyze from a historical point of view, the way in which the role of state and nation has been seen in relation to the international system. There are here many points of departure; however we choose to begin with the ideas originated and spread by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL)1. Our argumentis that CEPAL, and the ideas around it, such as Developmentalism (Desarrollismo), had a pivotal impact in the analysis of the state and its link to nationhood. As we see it, the currents of thinking (and action) inspired by CEPAL blended not only development theories and nationalism, but also a new kind supranational identity by institutionalizing the use of the concept "Latinoamerica"2 as a substantive. Although the Developmentalism lost influence during the polarization of the 1960s and the neo-liberal predominance since the 1970s, it is reappearing after the debacle of the Washington Consensus, in the aftermath of the Argentinean 2001 crisis. We analyze this evolution through a section called "the neo-liberal interlude" and in the following part where we center our attention on reflections around a "post neo-liberal" perspective. A central issue here is to explore the return of certain elements of the Developmental period, but opening up a discussion around what they mean in the context of Globalization. This form of dividing periods is, of course, an arbitrary act, motivated by our intention to emphasize the lines of continuity and change between the original Cepalian ideas, and current thinking about state and nationhood in Latin America. …