Social Forces and States: Poverty and Distributional Outcomes in South Korea, Chile, and Mexico

Social Forces and States: Poverty and Distributional Outcomes in South Korea, Chile, and Mexico

Social Forces and States: Poverty and Distributional Outcomes in South Korea, Chile, and Mexico

Social Forces and States: Poverty and Distributional Outcomes in South Korea, Chile, and Mexico

Synopsis

With the failure of market reform to generate sustained growth in many countries of the Global South, poverty reduction has become an urgent moral and political issue in the last several decades. In practice, considerable research shows that high levels of inequality are likely to produce high levels of criminal and political violence. On the road to development, states cannot but grapple with the challenges posed by poverty and wealth distribution.

Social Forces and States explains the reasons behind distinct distributional and poverty outcomes in three countries: South Korea, Chile, and Mexico. South Korea has successfully reduced poverty and has kept inequality low. Chile has reduced poverty but inequality remains high. Mexico has confronted higher levels of poverty and high inequality than either of the other countries. Judith Teichman takes a comparative historical approach, focusing upon the impact of the interaction between social forces and states. Distinct from approaches that explain social well-being through a comparative examination of social welfare regimes, this book probes more deeply, incorporating a careful consideration of how historical contexts and political struggles shaped very different development trajectories, welfare arrangements, and social possibilities.

Excerpt

IN THE FACE OF REPEATED ECONOMIC CRISES, the failure of market liberalization to produce sustained economic growth in many countries of the global south has eroded the widely held presumption that state intervention was at the root of the economic problems faced by these countries. Numerous authors have recognized the importance of state leadership in the high rates of economic growth achieved by the Asian NICs (newly industrializing countries): South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore (Evans 1995; Haggard 1990; Kohli 2004; Wade 1990). At the same time, backed by a rising chorus of criticism from civil society and labor organizations, scholarly and official circles have shown increasing concern about the perpetuation of widespread poverty and evidence of persisting or increasing levels of inequality. By the year 2000, poverty had become a major ethical, political, and economic issue. In that year, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Millennium Development Goals, which, among other things, included the objective of reducing absolute poverty by one-half by the year 2015. The impact of the recent global financial crisis on the fragile economies of the global south has generated even more interest in such issues.

Mounting unease about the economic and political impact of high levels of intracountry inequality has replaced the early assumption that inequality was inevitable in the early stages of development. Conventional wisdom accepted the Kuznetsian prediction that, while inequality would rise during the early phase of modernization, it would subsequently decline as the labor force in the industrial sector expanded and as industry . . .

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