Cover image for Rethinking Development in Latin America Edited by Charles H. Wood and Bryan R. Roberts

Rethinking Development in Latin America

Edited by Charles H. Wood, and Edited by Bryan R. Roberts


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Rethinking Development in Latin America

Edited by Charles H. Wood, and Edited by Bryan R. Roberts

“A dozen very accomplished social scientists here reassess the theories that have informed the study of Latin American societies over the past forty years or so. The authors also consider analytic revisions that may be needed to address new social issues or paradigmatic gaps. The text conveys a subtle picture of contemporary societal and political dilemmas in Latin America, stressing the interplay among social issues, public policies, and evolving analytic models.”


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Understanding development in Latin America today requires both an awareness of the major political and economic changes that have produced a new agenda for social policy in the region and an appreciation of the need to devise better conceptual and methodological tools for analyzing the social impact of these changes. Using as a reference point the issues and theories that dominated social science research on Latin America in the period 1960–80, this volume contributes to “rethinking development” by examining the historical events that accounted for the erosion or demise of once-dominant paradigms and by assessing the new directions of research that have emerged in their place.

Following the editors’ overview of the new conceptual and social agendas in their Introduction, the book proceeds with a review of previous broad conceptual approaches by Alejandro Portes, who emphasizes by contrast the advantages of newer “middle-range” theories. Subsequent chapters focus on changes in different arenas and the concepts and methods used to interpret them: “Globalization, Neoliberalism, and Social Policy”; “Citizenship, Politics, and the State”; “Work, Families, and Reproduction”; and “Urban Settlements, Marginality, and Social Exclusion.”

Contributors, besides the editors, are Marina Ariza and Orlandina de Oliveira, Diane Davis, Vilmar Faria, Joe Foweraker, Elizabeth Jelin, Alejandro Portes, Joe Potter and Rudolfo Tuirán, Juan Pablo Pérez Sáinz, Osvaldo Sunkel, and Peter Ward.

“A dozen very accomplished social scientists here reassess the theories that have informed the study of Latin American societies over the past forty years or so. The authors also consider analytic revisions that may be needed to address new social issues or paradigmatic gaps. The text conveys a subtle picture of contemporary societal and political dilemmas in Latin America, stressing the interplay among social issues, public policies, and evolving analytic models.”
“At no point in recent memory are we more in need of fresh thinking about development strategies for Latin America than today. The distinguished authors in this volume challenge existing paradigms and offer provocative insights to stimulate renewed debate about how Latin America might move ahead and, indeed, once again provide a development model for other regions in the world.”

Charles H. Wood is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida.

Bryan R. Roberts is C. B. Smith Centennial Chair in U.S.-Mexican Relations and Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas.



Figures and Tables


Introduction: Rethinking Development in Latin America

Bryan R. Roberts and Charles H. Wood

Part I Sociology in the Hemisphere: Old Issues and New Directions

1. Sociology in the Hemisphere: Past Convergencies and a New Middle-Range Agenda

Alejandro Portes

Part II: Globalization, Neoliberalism, and Social Policy

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Neoliberalism

Osvaldo Sunkel

3. Social Science and Academic Sociology in Brazil

Vilmar E. Faria

Part III Citizenship, Politics, and the State

4. Toward a Political Sociology of Social Mobilization in Latin America

Joe Foweraker

5. Citizenship, Rights, and Social Policy

Bryan R. Roberts

6. The State of the State in Latin American Sociology

Diane E. Davis

7. Human Rights and the Memory of Political Violence and Repression: Constructing a New Field in Social Science

Elizabeth Jelin

Part IV Work, Families, and Reproduction

8. Exclusion and Employability: The New Labor Force Dynamics in Latin America

Juan Pablo Pérez Sáinz

9. Families in Transition

Marian Ariza and Orlandina de Oliveira

10. Population and Development: Then and Now

Joseph E. Potter and Rodolfo A. Tuirán Gutiérrez

Part V Urban Settlements, Marginality, and Social Exclusion

11. The Lack of “Cursive Thinking” Within Social Theory and Public Policy: Four Decades of Marginality and Rationality in the So-called Slum

Peter M. Ward

12. Social Exclusion

Charles H. Wood





Rethinking Development in Latin America

Bryan R. Roberts and Charles H. Wood

Recent decades have witnessed profound change in Latin America. The imperatives of a globalized world economy have interacted with local economic, political, and cultural landscapes to produce an array of largely unforeseen consequences across the region. Confronted by new and increasingly complex realities, the perspectives that once dominated the social sciences during the “golden age” of development studies in the 1960s and 1970s have fallen from grace as new concepts, theories, and methods strive to make sense of the latest turns in contemporary Latin American history.

The material and conceptual transitions under way call for a timely assessment of the present and future state of development studies. The task can be organized in terms of a few basic questions: What historical events accounted for the demise of once-dominant paradigms? What new thematic directions and research priorities have come to define the field? And what implications do the answers to such questions have for the character of the social sciences, and their relationships to Latin America, in the twenty-first century?

Rather than report on specific research findings, the chapters in this volume are thoughtful reflections that, taken collectively, sketch the elements of the new conceptual and social agendas for Latin America. The issues and theories that informed our understanding of the region from the 1960s through the end of the 1980s serve as a reference point for critical analyses of current directions in the field. The challenge is to distinguish those frameworks and approaches which were overly embedded in the particular history of the time (and are therefore no longer applicable) from those which may have been discarded too hastily and could stand to be revived. The chapters take an equally measured view of newly proposed concepts and theories, distinguishing those which mainly reflect transitory fashions from those which represent genuine advances. The contributions pay particular attention to the relationship between research and policy, noting the new roles and responsibilities of the social sciences in a context that, today, is defined less by outright authoritarian governments than by weak democracies in which people struggle for political representation and citizenship rights. In the process of carrying out such assessments, the chapters provide an extensive and comprehensive bibliography on past and present publications and identify the research priorities that will define Latin American development studies in the decades to come.

The Golden Age of Latin American Development

Our benchmark is the period of Latin American development from approximately 1950 to 1980, when the region experienced industrialization and a rapid urbanization. Between 1950 and 1973, the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an average annually compounded rate of 5.2 percent, compared with 2.6 percent in the period 1913–50 and 3.9 percent between 1973 and 1990 (Ffrench-Davis, Muñoz, and Palma 1994, 166). The 1950–73 period was also when the region had its highest percentage (30 percent) of the labor force working in industry. Thereafter, industrial employment declined as that in services and commerce grew.

The pace and extent of change differed by country. The southern cone countries—Argentina, Uruguay, and to a lesser extent, Chile—urbanized and industrialized earlier than other countries, with some 70 percent of their population living in towns and cities of twenty-thousand and over by 1980. Brazil and Mexico urbanized and industrialized later, but by 1980, just over half their populations were living in cities of twenty-thousand and over. In contrast, the Central American countries had just a quarter of their populations in such urban places by 1980. Urbanization and industrialization, along with high rates of natural increase in the countryside, produced substantial changes in the agrarian structures of the region. Urbanization and industrialization meant not only large-scale rural-urban migration but also increasing commercial pressures on subsistence agriculture. The highly uneven distribution of land in many Latin American countries and demographic pressures made peasant farming increasingly unviable, resulting not only in urban migration but in migration to other rural areas and to areas of colonization like the Amazonian frontier.

From 1960 to 1980, urbanization was closely linked to the direct and indirect effects of industrialization. Those countries which industrialized faster also urbanized at a quicker pace. The industrialization of the period was promoted by policies of import-substitution industrialization (ISI), which were widely adopted in the region. The United Nations Regional Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), under its executive secretary, Raul Prebisch, promoted ISI policies. As formulated in various ECLAC publications, these policies promoted a coherent policy of economic development that sought to end the region’s dependency on the export of primary products. Governments imposed tariffs to protect domestic industries, and they took an active role in promoting industrial development, particularly in those intermediate industrial sectors, such as steel, where domestic capital was weak. In contrast to the newly industrializing countries of Asia, where industrial exports led growth, Latin America’s growth was mainly based on industrialization for the internal market. The focus on ending economic dependency on the advanced industrial world meant that ISI supported a nationalism in Latin America that was both economic and political, based not only on the promotion of national industry and national products but also on the role of the state in development. In this period, Latin American states acquired an active role in making their nations modern through developing national systems of education, building infrastructure, and sponsoring industrial development. The state, not the market, was the primary agent of modernization in most Latin American countries.

Though many Latin American countries had high rates of economic growth in this period, the benefits were unevenly distributed. The high rate of large city growth outpaced the capacity of the urban economy to provide decent jobs and housing for all. The urban populations built much of their own housing and through community self-help provided basic infrastructure. Squatter settlements proliferated even in the wealthiest Latin American cities, such as Buenos Aires. Likewise, migrants and natives alike created their own jobs as self-employed street vendors, garbage pickers, and laborers, or by setting up small craft workshops. In the rural areas, survival came increasingly to depend on off-farm work. Male members of households migrated temporarily to labor for wages on commercial farms or in the mines or cities. They diversified the peasant enterprise through trade ventures, often linking city and countryside in commercial exchange networks.

In this period, the policy responses of Latin American governments to these social issues were characterized, on the one hand, by a focus on economic modernization through investments in infrastructure and economic enterprises and, on the other, by the partial provision of social security protection for a segment of the labor force. Social security protection was extended to that fraction of the labor force that worked in large- and medium-scale enterprises. It did not usually include the rural workforce. Government housing programs catered to middle-, not low-, income populations. In this context, governments often tolerated land invasions and did not enforce the regulations on building or infrastructure, the registration of small-scale enterprises, or the collection of social security taxes on employees. The problem of squatter settlements and the informal economy also became, as one analysis of the period suggested, the solution both for governments as well as for the population seeking to make their livelihood in the city (Mangin 1967). Most Latin American countries experimented with agrarian reforms in this period, hoping that remedying inequities of land distribution would increase productivity in agriculture to feed the growing urban populations and diminish the migration pressure on the cities.

This summary review of the salient social and economic trends of the period needs to be complemented by one of its politics. In the twenty years between 1960 and 1980, the Latin American countries lived for substantial periods under nondemocratic governments, many of which had come to power through military coups, but some of which, as in the case of Mexico, were based on an official party that carefully managed elections. There were important exceptions to authoritarian politics, as in the case of Costa Rica or Colombia, but all the major and fastest developing Latin American countries had prolonged periods of authoritarian government in the 1960s and 1970s. These governments often differed in their ideologies—the reformist military regime of General Juan Velasco in Peru from 1969 to 1973, the nationalist and developmentalist military regimes of Brazil, or the more free-market-oriented military regimes of Chile and Argentina in the 1970s. In all cases, however, the state took on the major role in directing economic development and in providing basic social security safety nets for the poor and unemployed.

The Theoretical Response to Rapid and Uneven Development

The social and economic changes that Latin America experienced in its golden age of development are comparable in extent to the profound changes that Europe experienced in the nineteenth century as a result of urbanization and the Industrial Revolution. As in the European case, the changes in Latin America led to the formulation of paradigmatic explanations that sought to capture the essence of the trends of the time. Since there are detailed accounts of the origin and development of these ideas in Latin America in this period, we restrict ourselves in this section to outlining some of the key emphases that differentiate earlier social science understandings of Latin America from those which prevail today.

There were important methodological constraints on these understandings in the period 1950 to 1980. Authoritarian governments made it difficult and at times impossible to undertake extensive empirical research. There was little funding for social science research, although foundations, such as the Ford Foundation, did promote social science research in the region in this period. Researchers from outside Latin America brought research funds and expertise to the region, but in the climate of the Cold War, Latin Americans often viewed large-scale, externally funded social science research, for example, Project Camelot, with suspicion. One consequence of this research context was that much of the social analysis of the period was heavily theoretical and historical, with relatively little survey-based empirical evidence. Lack of funds for survey research meant that much of the empirical evidence on urbanization and industrialization was ethnographic in nature, reporting case studies of villages, factories, or urban neighborhoods. Decennial censuses provided aggregate and reliable data on trends, but the absence of micro samples prevented more detailed analysis. In this period, hardly any country applied household surveys to chart trends in employment, family structure, and poverty. United Nations agencies, such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the regional office of the International Labour Office, PREALC (Programa Regional de Empleo para América Latina y el Caribe), were, however, active in bringing together and analyzing the data that was available.

One theoretical approach that made use of available empirical research was that associated with the modernization paradigm. This approach is mainly associated with the work of Gino Germani (1955, 1969) in Argentina, which, in the 1950s and 1960s, had perhaps the most highly developed social science research capacity of any Latin American country. Argentina had also the most developed social and economic structure, with very high levels of urbanization, a highly literate population (based mainly on European immigrants), a substantial middle class, and a large, organized industrial working class. Germani and his colleagues stress the changes in social stratification and the increase in social mobility produced by urbanization and industrialization. They place considerable emphasis on education as a catalyst of change, both for the skills and for the values that it imparts. All these processes were seen to help replace “traditional” values, which stressed the importance of kinship ties and inherited status, with “modern” ones, which stress individual responsibility and achievement.

There were other analyses of stratification and mobility in this period, such as Carlos Filgueira and Carlo Geneletti’s (1981) analysis of occupational mobility in Latin America. There were also earlier survey-based studies of migration and occupational mobility. One is the Monterrey, Mexico, mobility study conducted in the mid-1960s with the help of funds from the Ford Foundation by Jorge Balan, Harley Browning, and Elizabeth Jelin (1973). The other is the study of migration and social inequality in the city of Mexico made in the early 1970s by Humberto Muñoz, Orlandina de Oliveira, and Claudio Stern (1982). However, such studies were increasingly exceptions in the social science analysis of the period, which tended to be predominantly structuralist or Marxist in its orientation. Marxist class analysis predominated, not that of social stratification and mobility.

By the mid-1960s, Latin American analysts began to focus less on modernization and more on the darker side of urbanization and industrialization. Germani (1973) took up the issues of poverty and inequality in his analysis of marginality, which he saw as inhibiting the development of full citizenship. Increasingly, however, social scientists based in Latin America tended to take a more structural and Marxist view of poverty and inequality. Their focus on the inequalities and instabilities attending capitalist development was, however, also influenced by ECLAC’s emphasis on the impediments to Latin American growth that resulted from the workings of the global economic system. Some of this research focused on individual actors, as in F. H. Cardoso’s (1964, 1971b) interviews with members of the Brazilian industrial elite, but usually the focus was on structures. U.S.-based researchers were also influenced by this theoretical emphasis. Janice Perlman (1976), for example, came to Rio de Janeiro intending to do an attitude-based study of modernization in Rio’s favelas and ended by focusing on the structural factors reproducing poverty, which the researchers at CEBRAP (Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento) were emphasizing.

Confronted by the evident and persisting poverty produced by urbanization and industrialization, theorists of marginality, such José Nun in Argentina and Anibal Quijano in Peru, focused on the exclusive nature of capitalist development. For Nun (1969) and Quijano (1974), capitalism in Latin America was structurally incapable of including the majority of the population, thus generating a permanently marginal class. In contrast, Paul Singer (1973) stressed the inclusive, though destabilizing, nature of capitalist development. Singer worked out of CEBRAP, which was located in the most dynamic industrial center in Latin America, São Paulo. To Singer, the marginal population was fluid and changing in its composition, but not permanently outside the capitalist system. As capitalism reached into new areas, it displaced old ways of making a living, but also created new sources of livelihood, although not necessarily in the same place.

Other research projects of the period from the United States and Europe also took broad political economic perspectives in their analyses of urban and rural development (Portes and Walton 1981; De Janvry 1981; Roberts 1978). Indeed, the development and refinement of the concept of the informal economy and its application to Latin America owed much to this intellectual climate and to its emphasis on the structural factors—political, economic, and social—that propelled the development of markets. Originally, the concept of informality had been formulated to explain the dynamism of small-scale economic activity among the poor in African cities (Hart 1973). It stressed the capacity of the poor to use social relations as substitutes for capital and the skill of the poor in exploiting economically the needs and wealth of large-scale organizations and their employees. The best-known formulation of the concept took, however, a more structural perspective, defining the informal economy as that set of activities which escape regulation when other similar activities are so regulated (Portes, Castells, and Benton 1989). In this formulation, the relations of economic actors to the state thus became crucial factors in the characteristics and dynamic of the informal sector, directing attention to the political and class factors supporting a segmented labor market.

The issue of the informal economy stimulated many case studies of informal enterprises. These were part of a broader set of mainly anthropological studies that focused on how individuals and communities coped with the dislocations and opportunities of this period of rapid urbanization and industrialization. Larissa Lomnitz’s studies in the early 1970s and those of Mercedes González de la Rocha in the early 1980s were some of the many anthropological studies of urban neighborhoods that focused on the social networks and coping strategies of the urban poor (Lomnitz 1977; González de la Rocha 1994). They had their counterparts in studies of peasant economies, which emphasized the active, strategizing behavior of rural people who took full advantage of the opportunities created by the rural-urban links created by migration and urbanization. An example is Gavin Smith’s (1989) research in the 1970s on the household confederations that connected a remote highland village with Lima.

The studies of household strategies coexisted uneasily with the structural analyses of poverty, such as those of marginality theories. From the marginality perspective, the poor were relatively helpless victims of the system. From the household strategy perspective, they were active manipulators of their environment. Both perspectives captured important dimensions of Latin America’s development in the 1960s and 1970s, and both traditions of analysis are echoed, as we will see, in contemporary research.

The best-known social science paradigm of Latin America’s development in this period was, however, that produced by the various dependency theories. In retrospect, it seems paradoxical that dependency theories should emerge just at the time when the Latin American economies were growing rapidly and when both economy and society were transforming themselves in fundamental ways. There is, arguably, more evidence today than there was in the period of ISI that Latin American societies are seriously constrained in their possibilities of development by their external economic relations. Cardoso and Faletto’s (1969) analysis in Dependency and Development stresses variation between countries and the possibilities of a dependent development. However, the focus, even in this sophisticated version of dependency theory, remained on the structural limitations to social and economic development, not on the dramatic changes in livelihoods, in communication, in education, and in social actors that were happening at the same period.

The focus on dependency is, however, understandable in the political and economic context of the 1970s. The Marshall Plan had helped transform the European economies destroyed by the Second World War, but there was no similar plan for Latin America, leaving countries heavily dependent on foreign direct investment and trade in primary goods to obtain the capital and technology needed to transform their economies. During ISI, multinational firms controlled, either directly or through co-management with local capital, the capital goods sectors of even the most developed Latin American countries. In this context, Latin America was unable to develop industrial technologies that would enable them to compete effectively on the world market. For many intellectuals of the period, both within and outside Latin America, the salient issue was thus the continued subordination of Latin America to external interests, even if under the new modality of industrialization. Dependency theories were, it should be remembered, not the only social science theories in this period that focused on the structural limitations on a country’s and a region’s development. Wallerstein’s (1976) world system theory placed similar emphasis on the structural limitations on development.

Latin American analysts focused, to be sure, on the social movements that arose in response to urbanization and industrialization, such as the peasant movements of the 1960s and 1970s and the “new” urban social movements. Yet their analysis also tended to deemphasize the capacity of social actors to produce significant change in the power relations that kept most of the population poor and bereft of rights. Touraine (1987) in his review of the literature was to conclude that Latin American urban movements were not true social movements in the sense of being able to transform the structures of power. As Foweraker points out in his chapter in this volume, the sights were set too high. A way of seeing became a way of not seeing the beginnings of significant changes in the structure and exercise of power in Latin America.

A key piece in this intellectual puzzle is the political economy of the Cold War. Particularly after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, democratic politics in Latin America took a back seat in the eyes of the United States to the imperative of preventing the spread of communism in the region. The United States was to play an important role in destabilizing regimes, such as that of Allende in Chile, that were seeking alternatives to dependent development, but that seemed to threaten U.S. political and economic interests. Military governments in the region were supported in their suppression of left-wing political movements and independently minded trade unions in countryside and city. It is thus not surprising that for many social scientists of the time, capitalist development in Latin America was linked to authoritarian government. The leading role that the state in Latin America took in economic development added a further element to this link. In his concept of the bureaucratic-authoritarian state, O’Donnell (1988) emphasizes the capacity of the rationally organized authoritarian state to create the conditions for economic growth because it is impermeable to the demands for a greater share of resources by politically organized groups such as the middle classes or organized working classes.

These studies of the structures of power and inequality in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s captured some of the most salient trends of the time, but they also, we argue, overestimated the importance of these structures. During ISI, the formal, capitalist firms were mostly content to control the high- and middle-income sectors of the economy over which they had a monopoly. These firms were often not rationally organized in terms of economic efficiency. Workers and management were recruited clientelistically rather than in terms of their qualifications. They left considerable market scope to the small-scale informal enterprises, which catered, innovatively, to the lower-income end of the market. Likewise, the authoritarian state was neither bureaucratic nor efficient in practice. As Davis (1999) has pointed out, it had a limited and uneven governing reach. Its offices dealt with a small fraction of the population, mostly concentrated in the major urban centers. Even its police forces rarely reached into low-income neighborhoods. The authoritarian state had a considerable repressive capacity, but it was more effective in preventing protest than in mobilizing support, other than through the clientelistic political parties on which, at times, it leaned.

The New Challenges

At the beginning of the new millennium, the social and economic situation of Latin America contrasts sharply with that of the “Golden Age” of development. The urbanization process is almost over in most countries. The region is now 73 percent urban, and most of the urban populations live in very large cities. Rural-urban migration is replaced as the dominant pattern of migration by urban-to-urban migration and, in some countries, by international migration. Declining fertility means that population growth is substantially lower throughout the region, resulting in slower growth of the cities. The urban systems of most Latin American countries have diversified with the lessening of primacy and of the dominance of one major city over all others. Intermediate-sized cities have grown in importance, often as the locations of export-oriented manufacturing as in Mexico and Costa Rica. Many of the fast-growing intermediate cities, such as the industrial satellites of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are, however, located close to the major metropolitan areas.

The maturing of urbanization has brought new issues to the social agenda. Housing self-construction and land invasion are less of a problem and a solution than are the issues of what to do with the consolidated, but dilapidated slums, which abound in Latin American cities, one of the themes in Peter Ward’s chapter in this volume. Urban households increase and diversify as nontraditional household structures proliferate—single-person households, two-person households, often of the elderly, and single parent-, usually female, headed households, as Ariza and Oliveira note in this volume. The size of the nuclear family of two parents and children has dropped sharply throughout the region. These changes in household structure combine with changes in labor markets to alter the pattern of household coping strategies that was documented in the earlier period. The caring capacity of the household and, by extension, of the community, is potentially weakened in the current situation when there are fewer children to look after the elderly or to bring in an income to supplement that of the household heads and when women, including married women with children, increasingly work outside the home.

Industrialization continues, but the growth of employment is increasingly in the service and commercial sectors of the economy. There is now a more evident gulf than was the case in the earlier period between sectors of high productivity and high wages and the rest of the economy that pays low wages and provides insecure conditions of work. These economic changes are a direct result of the new, more export-oriented, free market policies that have replaced ISI. These policies have reduced tariffs to promote free trade and have deregulated capital and labor markets. A wave of privatization throughout the region has reduced the state’s direct role in the economy. These changes have been promoted by the bilateral and multilateral institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as a means of incorporating Latin American countries competitively into the global economy. IMF arrangements with Latin American countries also emphasize fiscal restraint and the reduction in the size of the state.

The new policies brought an end to the inward-looking economic and political nationalism of the ISI period in most countries of the region. Mexico set aside its previous political and economic suspicions of the United States and joined the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an agreement that was anathema to Mexican politicians as late as the early 1980s. Several countries either made the dollar their national currency or toyed with the possibility. Foreign capital entered Latin America with few restrictions on its direct investment. The consequences are clear in the trade statistics of the region. Imports and exports went from approximately 10 percent of the region’s GDP in 1990 to 20 percent in 2000 (ECLAC 2001, 6). Foreign direct investment concentrated in the 1990s in the modern service sectors, such as telecommunications, finance, and supermarkets, followed by investment in high technology industry. By 1998 to 2000, some 42 percent of the five hundred largest Latin American firms by sales were under foreign ownership (ECLAC 2002, 50), and most of these were service or manufacturing enterprises. By 2002, foreign banks controlled most of the banking business of the region.

As significant a change is that in the political climate of the region, which was, in part, related to the ending of the Cold War, but also reflected, we would argue, longer-term changes in political awareness. By 2000, every country in the region was, formally, a democracy. Moreover, genuinely contested elections were more frequent throughout the region, as in the case of Mexico, which, for the first time since the Mexican Revolution, elected a member of an opposition party to the presidency in 2000. Despite the severest economic and social crisis of its history, Argentina continued with a civilian government, and its military remained in its barracks. The other, noneconomic face of international policies toward Latin America fostered this democratic climate. The United States, the European powers, and the multilateral lending institutions actively sponsored democratic practices alongside their policies of fiscal restraint and adjustment. These policies feature a greater emphasis on local government and on citizen participation at the local level. International nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) allied with local counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s to promote the rights of women, children, and minorities and to foster greater political participation.

As Faria emphasizes in his chapter, a major difference with the earlier period is the greater availability of empirical data. Micro samples of censuses and large-scale social surveys are publicly available, and in many countries of the region, census information can be mapped digitally. Development agencies in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru use detailed maps of poverty as a means of implementing targeted social policies. Household surveys are available for most countries of the region, providing representative information on intercensal trends in labor markets, incomes, and family structures. These data are often representative for major cities, as in the case of Mexico’s quarterly Urban Employment Survey, which covers more than forty cities. International and national pressures for greater transparency in government mean that it is increasingly common for census bureaus and government ministries to make available data through the Internet. The more democratic environment of the contemporary period also encourages empirical research, as do the new social policies that seek to target beneficiaries and to encourage community participation. Fiscal restraints mean, however, that universities and research institutes cannot easily take advantage of this more favorable research environment. Public budgets for independent social science research are small in most countries, and researchers must often do their research through contracts with government or international agencies.

The Emerging Perspectives

The implications of this new social and economic situation are the subjects of the chapters that follow. Their aim will be both to evaluate the trends and assess the theories and concepts that are emerging to analyze them. How much in the present represents continuity with the past in Latin America and how much represents a real break? Is the contemporary situation in Latin America giving rise to new paradigms of explanation, and if so, how do these differ from those of the earlier period? One indication of the change in thinking about Latin America is the shift in the most frequent concepts that appear in the titles of social science books on Latin America. A key-word search in the extensive Benson Latin American Collection of the University of Texas showed that between 1966 and 1973, “dependencia” was the most popular concept, with the word appearing in eighty-eight titles. By 1993–2000, “dependencia” appeared in just seventeen titles. Five of these were revisits to the earlier theories of dependency. “Globalización/globalização” was the term that had replaced “dependencia.” In 1966–73, the term appeared in only three titles, whereas by 1993–2000, it appeared in 276 titles.

What new perspectives and issues do we, as editors, see as emerging from this volume? In the next few pages, we will outline four areas where new theoretical and empirical agendas are being constructed. The first two are substantive areas of research. The first of these is the changing nature of the state in Latin America and of its relations with its citizens. This is the focus of the chapters by Davis, Foweraker, Jelin, Roberts, and less directly, of the chapters by Faria and Sunkel. The second is the meaning of poverty and disadvantage under the conditions of open economies and highly urbanized countries. These issues are taken up in the chapters by Ariza and Oliveira, Ward, and Wood.

The next two areas are conceptual and methodological. One of these reflects the new methodological challenges for social science research, resulting from the greater availability of census and survey data and from the need to integrate quantitative and qualitative data, issues that are the focus of the chapters by Faria and by Potter and Tuirán. Lastly, are what Faria calls the new paradigms of explanation that are emerging to replace the macrostructural explanations, whether of Marxism or modernization theory, that dominated social science understanding of Latin America in the past. These are middle-range in nature, and attuned to the variety and specificity of social and political processes in Latin America. This will be the prime focus of the chapter by Portes. All four areas are necessarily interconnected. Concepts and data identify the new realities, but these, in turn, demand greater refinement in concepts and greater accuracy in data collection.

In the period of economic and political nationalism associated with ISI, the state in Latin America was a key actor in promoting or subverting the welfare of its citizens. In contrast to this situation, contemporary neoliberal economic policies appear to create an “absent” state that is smaller in size and has less responsibility for the economy and for the universal provision of social welfare. Economic globalization would also appear to undermine the power of the national state. In Latin America, as elsewhere, it has eroded the significance of national boundaries for the movements of goods, capital, and even people, thereby reducing the national state’s control over its territory.

The chapters that follow make clear that the presumed demise of the state is premature. The nature of the state is changing in Latin America, but, if anything, it has become a more pervasive part of the lives of its citizens than it was in the past. To appreciate the contemporary importance of the state in Latin America we need to focus on the changes in the practices of government, rather than on the supposed downsizing in the bureaucratic institutions of the state. The practices of government are the essence of state institutions as Gordon (1991), following Foucault, points out. In the past, the practices of government in Latin America have tended to follow the governmental ideologies dominant in the region, such as populism or bureaucratic authoritarianism. Currently, we argue, the dominant ideology of government throughout Latin America, though to different degrees, is liberalism in its economic, political, and social manifestations. Liberalism may have an “unbearable lightness” as Sunkel argues in this volume, but it is percolating into most spheres of Latin American society. Stillborn as a governing rationality in the nineteenth century in Latin America, it is now having a slow and halting triumph in the region, aided by the favorable international conjuncture resulting from the ending of the Cold War and the march of economic globalization. This slow triumph is resulting in radical changes in the practices of government. As Davis makes clear in her chapter, however, the characteristics and organization of existing state institutions must also receive attention. These can be quite resistant to the change in practices demanded by new governing rationalities.

Liberalism, as a long tradition in political thought argues, entails the individualization of rights and responsibilities, whether in the market, or in social and political conduct. This process is exactly what central governments in many Latin American countries are espousing when they decentralize responsibilities to lower-order jurisdictions, replace universal social programs with targeted ones, subcontract functions to the private sector or NGOs, and establish programs to train individual citizens for the challenges of the job market or to make the best of low budgets by altering their consumption practices. To what extent are these new ways of governing bringing new forms of central control based on efficient regulation and compliance ensured by the auditing of results, rather than, as in the past, through bureaucratic administration? As Centeno (1994) showed in Mexico, there is an ongoing technocratic change in the nature of government in Latin America in which professionals become concerned with the efficient implementation of programs, rather than with their use as political patronage as was the case in the past. What do these new professionalized practices of government mean for the relationships between state and citizens? Do they encourage new relationships with citizens, such as greater participation in decision-making processes? Also, are these relationships becoming more pervasive, eroding distinctions between public and private spheres as government agencies, directly or indirectly, intervene in the household to monitor the education of children, the reproductive health of women, and domestic violence?

As Faria argues in his chapter, these issues pose complex research challenges because, on the one hand, they require an objective and critical academic social science that can identify the dangers and limitations of the new practices of government, and on the other, they challenge social science to contribute to the governing process by providing the kinds of reliable information that will enhance policy debate and implementation.

On the other side of the coin are the spaces created for citizens by the new governing practices. The liberal ethos on which these practices are based asserts both citizen rights and citizen responsibilities. We can hypothesize that governments are likely to emphasize citizen responsibilities, whereas citizens are more likely to emphasize rights. This latter emphasis is likely to be supported by NGOs and international agencies, both of which have become an integral part of the new ways of governing in Latin America. However, as Foweraker points out in this volume, the co-optation of NGOs by government means a certain loss of their independence as rights advocates.

When people acquire citizenship rights, it limits the degree to which the state can control them, thereby contributing to greater social equity. As Jelin shows in this volume, the study of rights advocacy and rights-based movements is now a major but challenging research issue in Latin America. Advancing rights is a slow process, and formal gains are often belied by the lack of substantive gains. Furthermore, how do we establish methodologically that it is the actions of citizens that limit state power in economic or social policy rather than a host of other constraints, including that of liberal ideology itself?

A linked issue is the fundamental change in the basis of collective action in Latin America. As government and economies decentralize, it becomes important to discover whether collective citizen action decentralizes as well. What are the nationwide political interests that can mobilize people for action, especially since the governments of Latin America now tend to recognize democratic rights? If it is increasingly local concerns that predominate, then there is the issue raised by Evans (1996) and Fox (1996) of how movements based on local concerns become “scaled-up” to link to others on a regional or national basis. This research issue is also an important one in Latin American cities, which are administratively fragmented and present a mosaic of different living situations. These cities are now relatively consolidated physically, making shelter and basic infrastructure less salient unifying issues than they were in the heyday of the Latin American urban social movements of the 1970s and early 1980s. The issue, as Foweraker points out in this volume, is not to lament a somewhat mythical past of active popular movements, but to identify the new forms of mobilization, the new issues with which people identify and, not least, the changes in the structure of political opportunities brought by current ways of governing. The resulting analysis of political change may not be as dramatic as that of the mass, national political movements of earlier years, but it potentially helps us understand the current potential in Latin America for democratic change from below.

Another important area in which new perspectives are emerging is that of poverty and inequality. The chapters in this book make clear that the meaning and interpretation of poverty has substantially changed since the 1960s and 1970s. Though rural poverty persists, urban poverty has become the predominant form of poverty in Latin America, and with less difference in poverty rates between cities than was the case thirty years earlier. The most significant change, however, is in the situation of the poor and in their prospects of enjoying the benefits of modernization. As indicated earlier, the poor lacked material resources in the earlier period, but not the opportunities to improve, albeit marginally, their own or their children’s situation through rural-urban migration, the self-construction of housing, or the opportunities of the informal economy. The current situation is different in three major ways.

The first affects the mainly family-based resources that the poor can call upon to confront and escape poverty. In the past, kin living together in extended households or living close to each other in nuclear households provided a basis of mutual support. Family members, particularly children, could be mobilized in the labor markets. The current situation is changing as Ariza and Oliveira show in this volume. There are now more “partial” households composed of single, mainly female, parents, single persons, or an elderly couple living on their own. The average size of nuclear households is becoming smaller everywhere. Though having to feed fewer people can potentially alleviate poverty, smaller household size means that there are fewer household members to work in the labor market, especially since children stay in school longer than in the past. There are also likely to be fewer caregivers available to look after the elderly. As more married women work in the labor market, providing public care for young children and the elderly becomes an issue for social policy. Migration, which once strengthened family bonds, now can disrupt them as younger members migrate to other parts of the city, to other cities, or to other countries. These demographic changes suggest that the family and community basis for coping with poverty is weaker than it was previously, a trend that Mercedes González de la Rocha characterized as being from the “resources of poverty” to a “poverty of resources” (see González de la Rocha 2001).

The second major change is in the organization of the labor market, discussed by Juan Pablo Pérez Sáinz in this volume. As elsewhere, employment is shifting from manufacturing to services, but this change in the industrial structure occurs as markets liberalize, as communications technology permits the reorganization of work on a global scale, and as competition intensifies to cheapen the costs of producing goods and offering services. We noted earlier the gulf between the relatively few jobs in technologically advanced and highly productive service and manufacturing industries and the large numbers of jobs in sectors of low productivity. What do these trends mean for Latin American class structures and for expectations of social mobility? In particular, do they signify an end to the structural occupational mobility that characterized the golden years of Latin American development? The Latin American class structure has, of course, always been characterized by polarization between the few managerial, professional, and technical occupations and the mass of poorly paid clerical and manual occupations. Portes and Hoffman’s (2003) updating of his earlier analysis of Latin American class structures shows, however, that there has been no increase in the proportion of the top occupations, and no decline in the proportion of the bottom occupations. Moreover, the erosion of the distinction between formal and informal work, one of the themes in Pérez Sáinz’s chapter, means that one avenue of mobility is no longer open to low-income workers. Economic instability and labor market deregulation are now eroding the previously privileged position of workers in the formal sector. This evidence for an ossifying class structure raises the possibility that the social mobility expectations that were present among even the urban poor in the past are less strong in the present, potentially discouraging educational and other aspirations.

The reduction in stable jobs in public and private sectors as well as the rapidly changing requirements of jobs in high technology sectors make vulnerability and the need to handle risk an increasingly chronic feature of Latin American labor markets. Research is badly needed into how current changes in the productive organization of manufacturing and service firms, such as outsourcing and the greater use of information technology, affect workers, the types of skills they need to survive in the new environment, and their job security. The issue is not simply the numbers of people who lack the know-how to survive in the new environment, but of those who become vulnerable to poverty because of job insecurity. Handling risk, as Pérez Sáinz points out, can become a viable individual and collective life-time employment strategy, but he suggests that it is not one that can easily be learned by traditional ways of securing work—personal relationships and training in specific and needed skills.

Another increasingly important research issue in Latin America is that of inequality. Though an old issue, it is significant because it is proving much harder to reduce than poverty. Thus, Chile, which made large reductions in poverty as result of job creation and economic growth, did not reduce its very high levels of inequality. Also, inequality becomes a potent factor in the mechanisms of exclusion described by Wood in this volume. Sharp inequalities in income are associated with the growth in private provision of education and health, and in the spatial seclusion of the wealthy. This not only reduces the common spaces of interaction between different social classes, but is likely to weaken the political coalitions favoring increased expenditures on public services. Also, the high quality of education that money can buy privately means that the wealthy are increasingly likely to monopolize the best jobs. In the 1960s and 1970s, the marginal were viewed, as Wood notes, as being outside the dominant culture and institutions. For reformers, they could be brought inside by schooling, access to health facilities, and the normalization of their housing situation. All that has happened, but while it was happening, the wealthy moved the goal posts by visiting private clinics, sending their children to private schools, and secluding themselves in gated communities.

Tackling these issues poses significant methodological challenges, as both Faria and Wood indicate in their chapters in this volume. We agree with Faria that social scientists need to improve their mastery of quantitative data analysis in the current situation. Good quality data are increasingly available, including digitized data that can be mapped down to small spatial areas. This mastery, we argue, is needed both to contribute to policy debate and to social science scholarship. For instance, many of the new issues we have identified concern the effects of locality on advantage and disadvantage. These are policy issues, but they are also important issues for scholarship, as the ample academic literature in the United States on the effects of sociospatial segregation demonstrate. Taking account of a contextual variable, such as sociospatial segregation, on education, health, or employment, can now be done given the data that is available, but it requires a high degree of technical sophistication.

We see two data requirements as particularly important for understanding the contemporary issues that we have outlined. One of these requirements is for data that measure change in individual and family trajectories over time. Evaluating the impact of social programs on beneficiaries is best done using before-and-after studies, and preferably ones that follow beneficiaries over time. An example of this is the Mexican government’s antipoverty program, Oportunidades, which conducts before and after evaluations of its programs. The evaluation is both quantitative, through representative sample surveys of beneficiaries and nonbeneficiaries, and qualitative, through observation and in-depth interviews in the locations where people have received benefits from the program.

It is a methodological requirement that we see poverty as a process rather than a state, and thus survey the same people and households over a period of time. One measure of vulnerability to poverty, for example, is the extent to which individuals and households enter and leave the situation of poverty over time. These panel surveys are expensive, and Latin American governments have not been able to mount panel surveys of the range and length that exist in the United States. However, several of the national household surveys, such as the National Employment Survey of Mexico and the Argentinean Continuous Household Survey do reinterview the same households over a short period of time (one to one-and-a-half years), allowing estimates of the proportion of families that remain in poverty or enter or leave poverty during that period.

We also need data relevant to understanding actions and actor perspectives. As Wood argues, processes such as exclusion can be approximated by statistics on the multiple disadvantages suffered by minority groups, but since exclusion is the result of deliberate or unconscious actions, it can only be properly understood by documenting the mechanisms by which people are excluded. Mechanisms, such as biases against people of a certain skin color or of a certain disreputable address, can be identified through methods such as focus groups and carefully framed attitudinal surveys. However, they also need to be observed in practice, when people relate to each other in different types of encounters. The issue here is not one of quantitative versus qualitative data collection methods, but of making their combination a normal part of social science studies of Latin American reality.

The final area is the importance of middle-range concepts for understanding the social and political reality of Latin America. This is the focus of Alejandro Portes’s chapter, which immediately follows this introduction. We would like to stress two aspects of the new salience of middle-range concepts. One of these is the failure, analyzed by both Faria and Portes, of the previously dominant macrostructural paradigms of Marxism and modernization to explain contemporary events. Both paradigms envisioned a clear future and a predictable course of events. What characterizes contemporary reality in Latin America is, in contrast, uncertainty and risk. Global capitalism is dominant, but it has been incapable of raising standards of living in Latin America or substantially mitigating poverty and inequality. It does not offer a predictable future for the vast majority of the population. At the same time, there is no perceived alternative to the existing mix of capitalism and democracy in the region. Struggles for rights and other forms of collective action are abundantly present, as we have noted, but they, unlike previous social movements, have no clearly articulated vision of structural change.

In this context, understanding what is happening depends on identifying the specific sets of conditions that lead to particular outcomes. As Portes puts it, “Context matters.” There are regularities to be identified, such as the ways people use social networks or stereotype strangers. Whether, however, strong relationships constitute an effective social capital or a negative one depends on context. The implication is that we use concepts to differentiate situations and processes, but not to construct general prescriptions. As Peter Spink (2000) argues in references to theories of how best to develop communities, there are no templates or best practices. What works in one situation may not work in another, but there are practices to avoid and others to foster.

The Organization of the Volume

The collection of essays begins with Alejandro Portes’s overview of the conceptual approaches that have been used to interpret Latin American development (Part I). He considers the advantages and disadvantages of the broad interpretative frameworks that characterized earlier analyses of development, finding, on balance, advantages to the current “crisis of paradigms.” He points to the useful contribution to the understanding of underdevelopment made by theories of the middle range that originated in Latin American social science and outlines a conceptual agenda of the middle-range approaches that can be usefully applied to contemporary Latin America.

Part II addresses the issues of globalization, neoliberalism, and social policy. Chapter 2, by Osvaldo Sunkel, provides an incisive analysis of the effects associated with the opening of Latin American economies to international trade, financing, and investments, as well as the privatizing of public enterprises and services. These, and related events, have been associated with adverse social trends in poverty and income distribution, and an increasingly worrying political panorama. In Sunkel’s view, the challenge is to recognize the demands of civil society, and to promote innovative interventions in the public sphere in order to create a new equilibrium whereby the state, society, and the market complement each other in the context of globalization. The capacity for such innovation is the topic taken up by Vilmar Faria in Chapter 3. Faria uses the history of social policy analysis in Brazil to raise broad questions about the interaction between research and the evolution of the institutions to which researchers belong and with which they must deal. In keeping with Portes’s previous analysis, Faria reviews the consequences of the modernization and dependency frameworks, noting the social, economic, and technological changes that eventually broke their “paralyzing embrace.”

The four chapters that comprise Part III focus on the political dimensions of Latin American development, including the issues of citizenship and rights. Diane Davis follows the “health” of the concept of the state in scholarly research on Latin America. She then evaluates the changing views of the state against its actual administrative and political manifestations, both in the 1970s and 1980s and in the present. She focuses on the premature death of state-centered analyses, particularly in sociology, and the resurgence of interest in popular movements, civil society, and citizenship. Joe Foweraker analyzes social movements and their relationship to the democratic transitions in the region, including their contribution to the development of citizen rights. He takes up the issue of the transformation of social movements with democracy through the proliferation of NGOs and their possible co-optation by the state as agents of social policy. Bryan Roberts examines the changing relationship of state and civil society in Latin America, focusing on the increasing saliency of citizenship issues, particularly those of social citizenship. He contrasts the contemporary managerial state in Latin America with the limited bureaucratic state that preceded it. For Roberts, the contemporary social policy area, involving the intense interaction of government agencies, NGOs, and community organizations, is the crucial arena for understanding the contradictions of contemporary development in a Latin America caught between a fiscally restrictive economic policy and a participative social policy. The issue of the creation of citizenship from below is the topic of Elizabeth Jelin’s chapter on rights and struggles over memory from dictatorship to democracy. Her concern is less with the concepts and theories used to explain popular struggles than with how those involved in those struggles conceive of the issues and of their own situation. Their actions and words have real consequences, contributing to a shift in the nature of state-civil society relations.

The three chapters in Part IV consider key substantive areas for social policy in Latin America. Juan Pablo Pérez Sáinz reviews the evolution of labor markets, reminding us that employment has been the main anchor of state social security provision in Latin America. The changes in the structure of employment now bring that anchor into question. He considers the changes in how we conceptualize labor markets, from a focus on the informal economy to issues of generalized exclusion from stable jobs and an adequate income. The changes in the structure of the labor market has had profound effects on the organization of families and households, as Marina Ariza and Orlandina de Oliveira note in their chapter, “Families in Transition.” They point to the complexity of the relation between interpretation and reality in this field of research in Latin America, since so much of contemporary theorizing on the family comes from the countries of the advanced industrial world, such as the United States and those of Europe. Joe Potter and Rodolfo Tuirán complete the section by adopting a broad demographic view of the changes in fertility and mortality that have taken place in the region, giving particular attention to changes in how analysts have viewed the relationship between population and development.

The final section, Part V, focuses on urban settlements, marginality, and social exclusion. Peter Ward reexamines the history of urban settlement in Latin America from the period of the rapid growth of cities, through self-construction and land invasion, to the contemporary situation of aging low-income settlements, coexisting with islands of public housing and the gated communities of the rich. As Ward notes, different periods of Latin American urban history are associated with different, but evolving, ideas regarding both the perception of the problems and the formulations of solutions. Wood speaks to similar topics in his analysis of “social exclusion,” a concept that originated in Europe but has been increasingly applied to Latin America. Given its European origins, and in light of the distant realities to which the concept was originally applied, the question is whether social exclusion has the potential to deepen our understanding of contemporary Latin America, or if it blurs the focus on underemployment and poverty, which many analysts consider the fundamental causes of the inequalities that plague the region. To address this question, Wood compares the concept of exclusion to the earlier notion of marginality and reviews the methodological challenges associated with the implementation of the social exclusion framework.

All of the chapters in this volume trace the evolution of the concepts, theories, and methods that have been invoked to understand different aspects of Latin American development. Despite the range of topics at hand, and the diverse areas of expertise represented by the authors, a striking number of common themes make their appearance in virtually all of the contributions. The result is a panorama of insights that, taken together, provide a multifaceted appreciation of the historical events and scholarly trajectories that define the social, economic, and political challenges that confront contemporary Latin America.