1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Governance (2000 - 2009), Social Policy and Development (2000 - 2009)

Welfare and Democracy in Latin America: The Development, Crises and Aftermath of Universal, Dual and Exclusionary Social States (Draft)



Citizenship in Latin America, be it civil, political or social has been elusive and fragile throughout its 20th century history. Coerced and semi coerced labor along racial lines in the late 19th and early 20th century, extreme levels of inequality, a centralist and patrimonialistic institutional and cultural tradition and elites that regarded themselves as subjects of privilege rather than citizens with equal rights and duties, conspired to create states that rarely considered the fate of the people. Only when the oligarchic states broke down and gave way to the need for a modern bureaucracy and a modern state and then to a new development model and to something approximating mass politics (not necessarily neither usually mass democracies) did a social dimension of the state emerge. Among the three processes mentioned–the development of modern states and bureaucracies, the emergence of a new development model and mass politics with democratic interludes–the first two processes were, in this early stage, definitely more important in defining and shaping the social states of Latin America than the latter, especially if we require of the latter the connotation not merely of mass politics but also a resemblance to democratic mass politics.

Indeed, the history of the Latin American developmental social state is the history of Statecraft and of the Import Substitution Model and its political manifestations, mostly authoritarian and corporatist, but rarely democratic. It is more the history of elite accommodation, elite’s state building and elite’s attempts to co-opt and control non-elite sectors than a history of popular achievements and shaping from below. This does not mean that social and labor organizations, parties, and popular struggles played no role in the building and especially in the expansion of the region social states, but rarely were popular based political and social actors seated at the driver’s seat. They were, yes, in some cases central coalitional partners of the populist regimes of the 30s, 40s and 50s, but under diverse forms of cooptation, clientelism and patrimonialism, and they entered the system rarely as a unified grass roots movement, but rather as fragmented narrow lobbying forces.

This paper is first going over some basic quantitative data with the single purpose of suggesting the relevance of the democracy-welfare hypothesis regarding social policy effort. Secondly the author delves in depth into the development of the Social States, linking such development to the characteristics of their Import Substitution models and the politics of specific countries. A typology that defines three different groups of social states in Latin America is being proposed and the author try to unveil de political and developmental determinants of their emergence and expansion until the 1970s, when the ISI model broke down and the political regimes of the most advanced social state changed drastically. Finally an analyses of the social state transformation in the last two decades and a half is undertaken, looking at the era of neglect in the eighties and the liberal turn of the nineties with an emphasis on social security reform. In that section Filgueira attempt to show how democratic policies had both a positive effect (moderating the liberal character of reform) and a negative effect (allowing for the persistence of privileged groups within the system).