After Neoliberalism? The Left and Economic Reforms in Latin America

After Neoliberalism? The Left and Economic Reforms in Latin America

After Neoliberalism? The Left and Economic Reforms in Latin America

After Neoliberalism? The Left and Economic Reforms in Latin America

Synopsis

The political trajectory of Latin America in the last decade has been remarkable. The left, which had been given up for dead across the region, swept into power in numerous countries: Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and even Chile. Moreover, the Mexican left, which lost an extremely close (and disputed) election a couple of years ago, may yet come to power in 2012. Once these left governments took the reins of power, though, they acted very differently. Some have been truly radical, while others have been moderate. Gusatvo Flores-Macias' After Neoliberalism? offers the first systemic explanation of why left-wing governments across the region have acted in the way that they have. His theory hinges on party systems. Deeply institutionalized, stable party systems have forestalled radical change regardless of the governing party's philosophy, but states with weakly institutionalized party systems have opened the door for more radical reform. Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez, then, are not simply more radical than Lula and Chile's Michele Bachelet (who left office in March 2010). Rather, weak party systems allowed them to adopt more radical policies. Flores-Macias is careful to add that weak party systems also allow for rightwing radicals to enact policies more easily, but at this historical conjuncture, the left has the upper hand. Utilizing a rich base of empirical evidence drawn from eleven countries, After Neoliberalism? will reshape our understanding of not simply why the left has had such a far-reaching triumph, but how it actually governs.

Excerpt

Onoe of my most vivid childhood memories growing up in Mexico was when my parents took me to a political rally in support of the leftist candidate in the 1988 elections. It was the first time in decades that an opposition candidate had a chance at challenging the 59-year-old regime. I was only 11 years old but was fully aware that, by joining in the demonstrations in Mexico City, I was participating in something big, something historic. In the midst of widespread fraud allegations, the government declared the incumbent the winner, but the close result landed a blow to the regime by showing it was not invincible. Although the election became a landmark in the country’s push against authoritarianism, Mexico would have to wait another 12 years for an opposition candidate to reach the presidency—and it is still waiting for a leftist president. That election taught valuable lessons about the left and the opposition more generally, but for me, it instilled a desire to study politics and government.

Since, my interest in the left grew as a consequence of what happened in Mexico in the absence of a leftist government, juxtaposed against the rising prominence of leftist governments in other Latin American countries. In Mexico, the government that began in 1988 embraced in earnest a set of market-oriented policies that completely transformed the economic landscape of the country, at the same time modernizing it and worsening inequality and informality. Every subsequent government deepened these policies, and every time, the left categorically denounced them. Since the presidency has eluded the left since the transition to democracy, I could . . .

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