Fernando Filgueira, Senior researcher at CIPPEC (Argentina) and CIESU (Uruguay), and lead author for the UN-Women Gender Progress Report for Latin America and the Caribbean.
As countries in Latin America seem to be shifting to the right –or at least moving away from the left- part of academia and much of the media seems to be reaching in a rather fast and dirty fashion two conclusions: signing the death certificate on the shift to the left and taking stock once again of the achievements and shortcomings of the pink tide…and usually finding it wanting. We recommend a more cautious approach, one that should also have been taken when heralding the end of the right and the triumph of the left, or when singing the praises of all that was being done during the left shift. Many analyses in journalism and also in the social sciences tend to focus on the short spans that are defined by the immediate political and policy “periods” with salient events that bound them in time. Recently it was the shift to the left and the pink tide, previously, it was the Washington consensus and neo-liberal governments, now it is the withering of the pink tide and the arrival of the new right. As Paul Pierson mentioned this neglect of the longer term and of less visible structural trends and factors (rather than salient events) is problematic. The emphasis on short spans of time and contiguous causal links, with short term emerging causes and immediate consequences, while needed, tends to obscure other necessary descriptive and causal focuses. As he so well puts it, when we lose the longer term and the underlying structural causes there`s is much that we do not see, and much of what we do see…we either misrepresent or cannot properly understand. The shift to the left has to be understood as the expression of a more profound transformation. Latin America has undergone an “epochal change“: the triumph of electoral democracy - for the first time ever, across the entire region - urbanization, educational attainment, demographic change – benefiting most countries with a demographic dividend - and increased exposure to global consumption patterns have radically changed the social fabric and the political game. Elites are no longer able to enclose, segment or appeal to overt authoritarian solutions to sustain a pattern of conservative modernization. The spheres that legitimize demands have become universal (democracy, urbanization, exposure to modern consumption patterns, educational credentials) and irreversible, but the spheres that allow for satisfying them remain segmented and outcomes frozen: property, labor market access and advancement, poverty and inequality. The shift to the left is the result of this contradictions, and unless the clock can be turned back it will remain as a force for change to be reckoned with, both for right wing agendas and left wing agendas.
Fernando Filgueira received his Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University. He has written and published books and articles on models of socioeconomic development, welfare regimes and social policy, social stratification and social structure. Some of his publications include Paths Towards Universal Social Protection (ECLAC, 2016), A perfect storm? Welfare, care, gender and generations in Uruguay (Democracy and Change, 2011), Fault lines in Latin American social development and welfare regime challenges (2011, In the Great Gap; Penn State) and "The Latin American Social States: Critical Junctures and Critical Choices" (Pallgrave, 2007). His prior positions include: Coordinator of the Program on Poverty and Social Exclusion at the Universidad Católica (Uruguay). Social Affairs Officer at ECLAC (Chile) and Vice-Minister of Education in Uruguay.
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