Cover image for Reorganizing Popular Politics: Participation and the New Interest Regime in Latin America Edited by Ruth Berins Collier and Samuel Handlin

Reorganizing Popular Politics

Participation and the New Interest Regime in Latin America

Edited by Ruth Berins Collier, and Samuel Handlin

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$72.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-03560-4

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ISBN: 978-0-271-03561-1

408 pages
6" × 9"
2009

Reorganizing Popular Politics

Participation and the New Interest Regime in Latin America

Edited by Ruth Berins Collier, and Samuel Handlin

“This volume provides a penetrating analysis of Latin America’s urban social and political landscape in the aftermath of market reform. Collier and Handlin and their collaborators draw upon a wealth of cross-national survey data to identify the new patterns of grassroots participation and civic association that have emerged in major urban centers, often in the void left by the decline of historic labor-based party and union organizations. Their empirically rich account helps explain how new associational networks have emerged to articulate popular demands and provide public services, and how these new social actors relate to governmental authorities and political parties. Anyone who wants to understand how the social bases of political representation have been transformed in Latin America’s neoliberal era should start with this book.”

 

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A historic shift has occurred in the organizational structures through which the lower classes in Latin America express voice and find political representation. With the political and economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, networks of community-based associations and nongovernmental organizations replaced party-affiliated labor unions as the predominant organizations to which the lower classes turned. This volume examines the new “interest regime” in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela through two extensive surveys—one of individuals and one of associations—undertaken in those nations’ capital cities.

Contrary to common perceptions, the new interest regime is neither a vibrant, autonomous civil society nor a set of weak, atomized organizations. Participation in associations is generally high, compared to “direct action” as a strategy for pursuing collective interests, and associations more frequently coordinate and engage the state than has sometimes been assumed. However, various forms of interaction with the state pose a classic trade-off between representation and state control, and the new interest regime is marked by representational distortion, in that the lower classes are less likely to use the new structures than the middle classes. Within these general patterns, distinct national models are emerging.

This volume represents the most ambitious and systematic effort to date to examine individual participation and associational life in Latin America and to carry out a cross-national analysis of new forms of political representation.

“This volume provides a penetrating analysis of Latin America’s urban social and political landscape in the aftermath of market reform. Collier and Handlin and their collaborators draw upon a wealth of cross-national survey data to identify the new patterns of grassroots participation and civic association that have emerged in major urban centers, often in the void left by the decline of historic labor-based party and union organizations. Their empirically rich account helps explain how new associational networks have emerged to articulate popular demands and provide public services, and how these new social actors relate to governmental authorities and political parties. Anyone who wants to understand how the social bases of political representation have been transformed in Latin America’s neoliberal era should start with this book.”
“Using a comparative perspective that is often lacking in the literature, this important book provides original insights on many aspects of associational participation and patterns of interaction between associational networks and political action. The book should be of strong interest to scholars interested in contemporary trends in the interaction between civil society and the state in South America.”
“Collier, Handlin, et al. are to be congratulated on this volume. Its scope of inquiry and the care with which the whole effort was carried through are both remarkable, and it absolutely represents a distinct step forward in our understanding of how and why mass politics in Latin America not only operates but also has changed over time.”

Ruth Berins Collier is Heller Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Samuel Handlin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Part I: Introduction: Interest Politics and the Popular Sectors

1. Introduction: Popular Representation in the Interest Arena

Ruth Berins Collier and Samuel Handlin

2. Situating the Analysis: Analytic Approach, Cases, and Historical Context

Ruth Berins Collier and Samuel Handlin

3. Logics of Collective Action and State Linkages: Comparing the UP-Hub and the A Net

Ruth Berins Collier and Samuel Handlin

Part II: Individual Participation in the Interest Arena

4. Direct Action and Associational Participation: The Problem-Solving Repertoires of Individuals

Thad Dunning

5. Political Participation and Representational Distortion: The Nexus Between Associationalism and Partisan Politics

Jason Seawright

Part III: The Popular-Sector Interest Regime

6. Targeting State and Society: The Strategic Repertoires of Associations

Diana Kapiszewski

7. Three Forms of Scaling: Embeddedness, Nodal NGOs, and Flexible Fronts

Samuel Handlin and Diana Kapiszewski

8. Associational Linkages to Labor Unions and Political Parties

Candelaria Garay

Part IV: Conclusion

9. Conclusion: General Patterns and Emergent Differences

Samuel Handlin and Ruth Berins Collier

Appendix A: Selection of Focus Districts

Appendix B: Survey of Associations

Appendix C: Survey of Individuals

List of Contributors

References

Index

Introduction:

Popular Representation in the Interest Arena

Ruth Berins Collier and Samuel Handlin

Latin America has experienced a historical discontinuity in the last quarter century in the context of two global macrosocial processes—international economic restructuring, often referred to under the rubric of globalization, and the third wave of democratization. Democracy became pervasive in the region, with virtually all countries having competitive electoral regimes after a period of widespread military rule. The regime transitions opened new possibilities for societal demand making and new expectations for accountability on the part of state officials, holding out the promise of more inclusive and integrative polities in countries that throughout the twentieth century had been marked by exclusionary political dynamics, difficulties incorporating the working classes into mass politics, and trouble sustaining democratic regimes in the face of popular demands. In this context, new associations were founded, creating a more vibrant civil society than had previously existed in the region, including a proliferation of organizations around lower-class interests. Yet the adoption of market-oriented economic models entailed profound socioeconomic change that in many ways made this democratic victory a problematic one for the working or lower classes. These groups constitute the majority of the population, who were presumably empowered by the new democracies, yet remained losers under the economic reforms, as inequality and often even poverty increased. By the turn of the twenty-first century, a reaction began that in some countries saw the election of “leftist” presidents of various stripes, who in office began to follow through on their campaign promises with extended social programs that would reach the lower classes, who had been largely excluded from the benefits of economic growth. This initial unresponsiveness and the new attention to the plight of the lower classes underline the question of popular political representation as a pivotal issue in Latin America’s new democracies.

Central to exploring this question is the fact that the dramatic changes in economic models and political regimes have been accompanied by a major shift in the urban popular interest regime in the region, the organizations through which the urban popular sectors, or the lower and lower middle classes, have sought to pursue their interests. Through the twentieth century, the most important organizations through which the urban lower classes framed and attempted to promote their interests were labor unions. They were not the only popular-sector organizations, but they were politically privileged both by their own resources and capacity to undertake collective action and typically by their affiliation to political parties (notwithstanding the often double-edged implications of that affiliation). The new economic models have challenged this privileged position of unions. The shift from state-led to market-oriented economic models has produced significant changes in both the state and the world of work. Changes in the role of the state have redrawn the public-private boundary, shifting the arena in which people seek solutions to social problems. Changes in labor markets and labor processes have made work-related solidarities and collective action more difficult to construct and maintain. The move to labor market flexibility and the relative rise of informal workers have challenged the position of unions and put them on the defensive. With the new economic model, unions have become a problematic support base for governing parties that oversee policies of economic reform. As the position of unions has been challenged, a new interest regime has emerged with the proliferation and activation of a broad array of urban popular associations, including community-based associations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

We refer to this shift in interest regime as one from the UP-Hub (union-party hub) to the A-Net (associational networks). The labels emphasize three main points of contrast. First, the two interest regimes are constituted by the predominant role of different primary organizations as “base units”—unions in the UP-Hub, as opposed to a diverse array of urban popular associations in the A-Net. Second, the role of parties differs. Parties were central in the UP-Hub, as unions were typically affiliated to and constituted the core support base of different forms of labor-based parties (LBPs), either populist or Marxist inspired. Parties play a much less central role in the A-Net, as associations typically have more distant, intermittent, instrumental relations to parties, if they have any at all. Third is a contrast between the structure or internal order of the two interest regimes. The UP-Hub was constituted by the central, privileged, and dominant role of unions as organizations of interest intermediation, although nonunion organizations of course also existed. Furthermore, the union hub was structured hierarchically into federations and national peak confederations. In contrast, the A-Net does not have a privileged, clearly defined organizational hub, nor is it hierarchically structured in the same way, although it is characterized by many organizations that are oriented to coordinating others. Instead, its structural form is the network, an ordering that is more horizontal and fluid, and in which no particular type of organization is privileged.

While the present analysis focuses explicitly on contemporary patterns, a cross-temporal comparison, based on the idea of the shift from the UP-Hub to the A-Net, underlies the book analytically and is explicitly addressed in chapter 3. The emergence of a UP-Hub in the first half of the twentieth century and its subsequent decline and replacement by the A-Net toward the end of the century reflects a more general historical transition that is not limited to Latin America. The UP-Hub was constituted by a set of institutions that arose, albeit in quite different forms, in many regions of the world among countries undergoing early industrialization. It emerged from political contestation over the incorporation of the urban working class into mass politics, and was sustained by a world economy whose dynamism was based on leading economies oriented primarily toward industrial production for the domestic market. The transition to more market-oriented economies, which has corresponded to closer integration of the international economy, has generally challenged the UP-Hub, though the extent of its decline has varied across world regions and countries. The rise of urban associationalism is likewise a more general pattern, widely noted in many other developing countries, and the phenomenon has some similarities with the rise of the new social movements in the advanced industrial countries (Touraine 1981; Melucci 1980; Laclau and Mouffe 1985; Kriesi et al. 1995; Habermas 1996).

Within Latin America, where the UP-Hub has been severely challenged, the fundamental changes we are witnessing may constitute a “new critical juncture.” In an earlier critical juncture of “labor incorporation” in the first half of the twentieth century, the challenge of popular participation and the transition to mass politics led to the legalization of the labor movement as a legitimate political actor and to its partisan affiliation (Collier and Collier 1991). These party-affiliated unions, even in those countries where they never came to encompass a large percent of the working classes, thereby became the major structures of interest articulation and interest intermediation of the popular sectors, constituting the UP-Hub as the first popular interest regime. The present analysis looks at a potential new critical juncture in the contemporary period in which these structures have been challenged, and new patterns of participation and new structures of representation are emerging. These structures potentially encompass a greater segment of the popular sectors: if the UP-Hub privileged the newly created formal working class, the A-Net is more inclusive of the informal sectors, groups likely to be especially relevant in contemporary Latin American politics given the dramatic expansion of the informal sector in the past twenty-five years. However, the extent to which these structures of representation attract the participation of the popular sectors is a crucial empirical question for examination, as is how they represent the popular sectors and how their activities intersect with the electoral/partisan arena.

Analysts disagree about the implications of the new pattern for popular representation. Some have seen in the new urban associationalism new forms of citizenship, the emergence of new actors, and new sources of citizen activation and participatory processes that, compared to hierarchical, bureaucratized party-affiliated unions or clientelistic patterns, have more potential for authentic representation and accountability. Others have seen instead a crisis of popular representation: resource-poor, fragmented associations that have limited reach or political influence and that may be limited and ineffective in their capacity to represent popular interests. Of course, still others have sought to find a middle ground between these contrasting images. Our goal is to explore this middle ground further. Beyond noting that reality falls between extremes, we seek to examine traits and patterns characterizing that middle ground along a series of dimensions and to undertake a comparative analysis that indicates where countries fall within that multidimensional space. What do these patterns suggest about channels for the expression of popular voice? To what extent does the new interest regime provide a potentially effective organizational infrastructure for expressing popular interests? To what extent do associations provide an effective channel either in advancing popular demands in the interest arena or in connecting with political parties?

Existing literature provides insufficient empirical evidence for addressing these questions. Several studies explore individual participation in the interest arena, looking at associational participation or other kinds of problem-solving strategies among the poor. Others have examined the activities of associations looking at specific neighborhood associations, NGOs, or social movement organizations. Still others have examined novel forms of policy-making institutions in which citizens and associations have an influential role, most notably “participatory budgeting” institutions. However, these studies are generally limited to a single country—indeed sometimes to one or two neighborhoods—making broader generalization difficult and providing a limited basis for explaining variation. Despite the new attention that civil society, social and human capital, social movements, and participatory governance have received in the comparative politics literature and in policy debates in multilateral organizations, no cross-national studies bring systematic evidence to bear on the set of questions on which this project focuses.

This book attempts to map and explore these issues by undertaking a systematic analysis of the capital cities of four South American countries—Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela. These four countries display substantial variation in terms of socioeconomic level, timing and conditions of economic reform, historic strength and political mobilization of the urban working classes, traditional union-party relations, and party system stability. The analysis is based on data from the CIRELA project (Comparative Infrastructure of Representation in Latin America) generated from two original surveys conducted in the capital cities of each country, primate cities containing 15 to 30 percent of the national population. A survey of individuals (n = 5,600) employed a random sample of the entire population in each capital city, as well as an oversample within eight popular-sector focus districts selected to produce variation in terms of income level and history of LBP or leftist voting among the focus districts. A survey of associations (n = 960) was also conducted within the same focus districts of each capital city employing a chain-referral technique and using associational leaders as respondents.

The rest of this chapter accomplishes four tasks. First, it introduces the concept of the interest arena and of “the political,” particularly as it pertains to activity within the interest arena. Second, it raises the question of how to approach the concept of representation in the interest arena, an issue that has not received much attention, since most discussions of representation concern the electoral arena. Third, given the focus on representation of and participation by the lower classes, the chapter discusses the concept of the popular sectors as a socioeconomic category or “class” group defined with reference to a materialist dimension. This issue arises in the context of recent strands in the literature that problematize class and emphasize the rise of postmaterialist issues. Finally, the analysis is situated in the political science literature on political participation and interest groups.