Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Democracy and the Left: Social Policy and Inequality in Latin America

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Democracy and the Left: Social Policy and Inequality in Latin America

Article excerpt

DEMOCRACY AND THE LEFT: SOCIAL POLICY AND INEQUALITY IN LATIN AMERICA

Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 342 pages.

Inequality is everywhere. The word creeps into headlines and political speeches on a daily basis. Evelyne Huber and John Stephens lasso the term and pull it to Earth--specifically, to the Americas--for closer examination in their ambitious Democracy and the Left: Social Policy. The result is an exhaustive review of the interaction between two fronts: modern Latin American politics, and democratic governance's effect on social outcomes such as inequality and poverty.

Their centerpiece is an analysis of nearly four decades of regional data, complemented by comparative synopses of five countries' history with democracy, left-leaning party influence, and egalitarianism. That qualitative component--of interest to fans of either regional history or contemporary politics--starts with Latin America's early authoritarian experiences and protectionist domestic policies. It then tracks state-specific democratization paying specific attention to five nations--Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay--crosses a rocky quarter-century of change: the "Lost Decade" and neoliberal reforms following a regional debt crisis; the residual effects of deregulation, privatization, trade liberalization, and austerity; and the past decade's leftward political shift. …

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