Politics and Development: Lessons from Latin America
Authors: Renato Boschi & Flávio Gaitán
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The present article discusses the conditions for the adoption of development strategies in Latin America in the aftermath of the neoliberal reforms, focusing specifically on the role of political institutions as a component of the productive regimes in selected countries. Development is treated as an endogenous process, which is shaped over time in terms of trajectories that are continuously redefined according to specific political conjunctures. Having moved from restricted democracies or authoritarian regimes and autarchic economies to mass democracies operating in the context of open economies after the market-oriented reforms, persistent structural inequalities presently constitute the major axis framing the definition of development policies. More so than in advanced countries where the State is treated as epiphenomenon of their respective productive regimes, in the case of the Latin American semi-periphery the State is the crucial actor for the reversal of vicious circles and negative complementarities stemming from the extreme structural and social inequalities within and between countries in the region.
Following a brief discussion on development and economic growth in the definition of the post-neoliberal agenda, the article examines institutional indicators for economic performance of contemporary governmental coalitions in selected countries, focusing on State policies favouring development such as financing, technological innovation, training of labour and social policies. Next, we concentrate on the analysis of political institutions and the role of political elites capable of generating national projects for sustainable development strategies, showing some of the differences between these countries. We conclude with a brief discussion on the adequacy of contemporary political economy approaches to understand processes of capitalist transformation in the periphery, calling attention to the need for a redefined regional perspective on development issues.