Latin America Transformed: Globalization and Modernity

Latin America Transformed: Globalization and Modernity

Latin America Transformed: Globalization and Modernity

Latin America Transformed: Globalization and Modernity

Synopsis

There has been a radical series of transformations in the economic, political, social, and cultural life of Latin America. This text offers a holistic approach to understanding these changes, relating them to the wider processes of modernization and globalization. An international team of contributors from a range of disciplines contextualize their different fields within a broad political economy approach that provides a critical yet balanced analysis of the neoliberal policies provided by nearly every country in the region over the last two decades. They then argue that a new political economy is being constructed in Latin America; as national economies become radically restructured and transformed, democracy becomes the institutional norm and new social arrangements are being created within national societies.

Excerpt

Since the debt crisis of the early 1980s there has been a radical series of transformations in the economic, political, social and cultural spheres of Latin America and the Caribbean. This book aims to provide an holistic approach for students wishing to understand these transformations and relate them to the wider processes of modernization and globalization. It does this by integrating authors from a range of disciplines — cultural studies, economic geography, political science, sociology and social geography. This enables the book to explain the nature of recent transformations from a range of perspectives — political, economic, environmental, cultural, social, rural and urban.

Part 1, Chapter 1, by Bob Gwynne and Cristóbal Kay, attempts a broad overview of the political economy of transformation in Latin America. It explores the nature of the new neoliberal paradigm as well as the contemporary relevance of the previous paradigm based on structuralism and dependency theory. It attempts to relate the paradigm shift to processes of globalization and investigates the social bases of neoliberalism. It is argued that neoliberalism is driven primarily by macro-economic arguments despite broadly negative impacts on labor markets, income distribution and poverty. the paradigm is perhaps being modified through the emergence of center-left governments that, whilst adhering to the macro-economic reforms of neoliberalism, have nevertheless boosted social spending and poverty-alleviation programmes.

Another major transformation since the early 1980s in Latin America has been the transformation from authoritarian governments to democratic systems. Part 2 of this book therefore explores the relationship between authoritarianism, democracy and development. Successive waves of authoritarianism and democracy in Latin America raised enduring questions about the relationship between economic development and political change in Latin America. Does economic development inevitably lead to either democracy or authoritarianism or is the connection more tenuous? Will the current trend toward democracy in Latin America persist? What are the chances for the consolidation of emerging polyarchies? Chapter 2, by Eduardo Silva, traces the intellectual history of responses to this problem by examining the evolution of two competing schools of thought: modernization theory and political economy. Buoyed by a wave of democratization in the 1950s and 1960s, modernization theorists initially argued that economic development inevitably led to democracy. After a wave of democratic breakdowns and military dictatorships in the more economically advanced nations of the Southern Cone in the 1960s and 1970s, political economists concluded the opposite held true. Middle stages of economic modernization required authoritarianism. the outbreak of democracy in the 1980s and 1990s has led to more cautious hypothesizing. the post World War Two period shows that both authoritarianism and democracy are compatible with economic change. But the modernization and political economy schools of thought differ on the reasons why. Those differences have a profound impact on policy prescriptions to help the consolidation of democracy.

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