Neoliberalism in Latin America at
the Beginning of the Millennium
RICHARD L. HARRIS*
This article critically examines the contemporary effects of globalization and neoliberalism in Latin America. It analyzes the context, nature, and effects of these two global forces in relation to the prevailing economic, political, and social conditions in the region at the beginning of the new millennium. This is followed by an examination of the extent of popular resistance to the neoliberal regimes that presently rule in the region, and the prospects for replacing the current neoliberal pattern of development in Latin America.
AT THE BEGINNING of twenty-first century, one of the most disturbing aspects of the social reality of the Latin American countries is the extreme degree of economic, political, and social inequality that exists in these societies, and the wide gap that exists between these countries and the advanced industrialized countries in terms of most indicators of human development. The extent of inequality in Latin America is perhaps best revealed by the distribution of national income between the upper and lower income-earners in the countries of this region. While the highest 20 percent of income earners receive between 40 and 70 percent of the total annual income earned in the Latin American countries, the lowest 40 percent of income earners only receive between 5 and 20 percent of the total income earned.1 A concomitant of such income disparity is the fact that 45 percent of the population of the region are living at a bare subsistence level.2
Moreover, data collected by the United Nation's Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) indicates just how unequal the income
* Professor of Global Studies, California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, California
93955–8000 U.S.A. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org