The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America: Rethinking Participation and Representation

The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America: Rethinking Participation and Representation

The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America: Rethinking Participation and Representation

The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America: Rethinking Participation and Representation

Synopsis

Against a broader backdrop of globalization and worldwide moves toward political democracy, The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America examines the unfolding relationships among social change, equity, and the democratic representation of the poor in Latin America. Recent Latin American governments have turned away from redistributive policies; at the same time, popular political and social organizations have been generally weakened, inequality has increased, and the gap between rich and poor has grown. Hanging in the balance is the consolidation and the quality of new or would-be democracies; this volume suggests that governments must find not just short-term programmes to alleviate poverty, but long-term means to ensure the effective integration of the poor into political life. The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America bridges the intellectual chasm between, on the one hand, studies of grassroots politics, and on the other, explorations of elite politics and formal institution-building. It will be of interest to students and scholars of contemporary Latin American politics and society and, more generally, in the vicissitudes of democracy and citizenship in the late twentieth-century global system.

Excerpt

In 1991, graduate students and faculty at Columbia University's Institute of Latin American and Iberian Studies began a series of exchanges on the relationship among social change, equity, and the democratic representation of Latin America's poor majority. the group launched the Inequality and New Forms of Popular Representation Project, a collaborative research effort to explore the repercussions of the troubling paradoxes of the 1980s: the dual processes of formal democratization and heightened social inequality; the rise of several new civil society movements in the context of authoritarianism; the apparent weakening of those movements as democratic institutions returned to the fore; and the general increase in violence which has accompanied nominally democratizing regime transition. the first conclusions from our discussions were that existing approaches were not adequate, that there were many excellent researchers doing very good work, and that we needed to bring together this fresh empirical research and develop new ways of thinking about these paradoxes.

During the 1992 Latin American Studies Association Congress, members of the Inequality Project publicly proposed collaborative research, and the proposal attracted interest from students of political economy, social movements, and political parties around the region. in 1993, approximately seventy scholars participated in a workshop at Columbia to explore the questions of popular participation and popular representation using eight country cases -- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Working groups were established among scholars and their us, Latin American, and Canadian affiliates to maintain contact and share research. the empirical work also expanded to include study of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. in March 1994, Project participants returned to Columbia to present their work in a two-day public research conference, 'The Politics of Inequality in Latin America'. Thirty-two papers were presented over a series of eight sessions. Working groups then met for in-depth critique of the papers, and an editorial board formed to select papers for revision and publication.

The major product of this several-year project is this volume, The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America: Rethinking Participation and Representation. Parts I through iii of the volume focus on popular sector strategies to gain representation, social movement-political party relationships, and the immense challenges to popular participation when confronted with immiseration and violence. Parts iv and V examine the structures, patterns, and arenas of popular representation which have emerged or are emerging in the region. the chapters explore policymaking, new forms of popular representation, and the search for progressive alternatives to neoliberalism at subnational, national, and transnational levels.

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