Does Politics Explain the
Economic Gap between the
United States and Latin America?
ADAM PRZEWORSKI WITH CAROLINA CURVALE
THIS CHAPTER EXAMINES whether and in what ways political institutions and events were responsible for the existing economic gap between the United States and Latin America.1 In the process of writing, it became evident that this effort was more pioneering than anticipated. While dependency theory correctly emphasized the importance of political conflicts and the potential role of the state, in the end it found the key to economic retardation in the initial insertion of particular countries into the world economy. Yet, as Stephan Haggard argued, dependency is not a condition but a strategy.2 Because of the incorrect view of economic openness, dependency theory failed to elucidate the political factors that may explain why Latin American countries stayed behind while the East Asian countries overtook them.
New institutionalism, in turn, is a mirror image of dependency theory where institutions are the key to development.3 The central claim of new institutionalism is that institutions are the primary driver of economic development, more so than features of the natural environment,