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The Resurgence of the Latin American Left

edited by Steven Levitsky and Kenneth M. Roberts

Publication Year: 2011

Latin America experienced an unprecedented wave of left-leaning governments between 1998 and 2010. This volume examines the causes of this leftward turn and the consequences it carries for the region in the twenty-first century. The Resurgence of the Latin American Left asks three central questions: Why have left-wing parties and candidates flourished in Latin America? How have these leftist parties governed, particularly in terms of social and economic policy? What effects has the rise of the Left had on democracy and development in the region? The book addresses these questions through two sections. The first looks at several major themes regarding the contemporary Latin American Left, including whether Latin American public opinion actually shifted leftward in the 2000s, why the Left won in some countries but not in others, and how the left turn has affected market economies, social welfare, popular participation in politics, and citizenship rights. The second section examines social and economic policy and regime trajectories in eight cases: those of leftist governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela, as well as that of a historically populist party that governed on the right in Peru. Featuring a new typology of Left parties in Latin America, an original framework for identifying and categorizing variation among these governments, and contributions from prominent and influential scholars of Latin American politics, this historical-institutional approach to understanding the region’s left turn—and variation within it—is the most comprehensive explanation to date on the topic.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. v-vi

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

When left-leaning presidents began to get elected in numerous Latin American countries in the late 1990s, many observers, ourselves included, were reluctant to read too much into it. After all, Latin America had spent much of the previous two decades grappling with the economic consequences of ineffectual statism, and a broad consensus had formed in academic and policymaking circles that economic progress would require the unshackling of market forces. For most of the 1990s, then, every country in the region was moving toward freer markets and more open integration in the global economy, and conservative, technocratic governance was increasingly the norm. ...


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pp. xi-xvi

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Introduction: Latin America’s “Left Turn”: A Framework for Analysis

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pp. 1-28

The beginning of the 21st century witnessed an unprecedented wave of electoral victories by leftist presidential candidates in Latin America. The wave began in 1998, when Hugo Ch


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1 Evidence from Public Opinion

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pp. 31-51

What is the relationship between the “left turn” and contemporary public opinion in Latin America? Presently we know little about what is driving the “pink tide” at the mass level. Do the Left’s election victories reflect a deep realignment of citizens’ ideological beliefs, a fleeting flirtation with new ideas after the promise of economic liberalization proved illusory, or simply citizens’ retrospective punishment of ...

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2 Economic Constraints and Presidential Agency

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pp. 52-70

This book was triggered by what scholars, journalists, and electoral analysts labeled “a leftward shift” in Latin American politics during the first decade of the 21st century. The movement got its footing in Venezuela with the 1998 election of Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez and gathered strength with the election of Brazilian union leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2002, Peronist governor Néstor Kirchner in Argentina ...

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3 The Left: Destroyer or Savior of the Market Model?

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pp. 71-92

Discontent with the market reforms of the 1980s and 1990s was crucial for sweeping left-wing governments into power during the past decade in a striking number of Latin American countries. Neoliberalism clearly failed to fulfill its promise of reigniting sustained growth and producing steady increases in employment. As high - and exaggerated - hopes for a turnaround in the region’s economic fate were dashed, ...

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4 The Political Left, the Export Boom, and the Populist Temptation

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pp. 93-116

In the late 1980s, influential articles by Jeffrey Sachs (1989) and Rudiger Dornbusch and Sebastian Edwards (1990) traced strong parallels between populist responses to the debt crisis of the 1980s under Alan Garc

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5 Social Policy and Redistribution: Chile and Uruguay

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pp. 117-138

The rise of the Left in Chile and Uruguay, in 2000 and 2005, respectively, initiated a period of significant social policy reform. Indeed, Chile’s Socialist Party (PS) governments of Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet and Uruguay’s Frente Amplio (FA) administration headed by Tabaré Vázquez enacted more significant changes in education, health care, transfer, wage, and tax policy than the other left governments ...

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6 The Diversity of Left Party Linkages and Competitive Advantages

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pp. 139-161

The role of political parties as important organizational intermediaries between state and society in democratic regimes calls for analytic attention to the nature and strength of the linkages they form with mass constituencies. This topic is central for studies of contemporary Latin American politics, especially the “left turn” in the region, because of the considerable changes that have occurred in the party/electoral ...

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7 The Left and Participatory Democracy: Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela

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pp. 162-183

In the 1980s and early 1990s, when centrist, populist, or right-wing parties dominated Latin America’s new (and old) democracies, many of the region’s left parties underwent a political transformation. Rather than dismissing or downplaying the importance of democratic institutions, as they often had before, parts of the Left came to view “deepening” democracy as the primary goal (Roberts 1998). Direct citizen ...

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8 The Left and Citizenship Rights

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pp. 184-210

The Left is defined, at its core, by its commitment to advance the rights of the poor and disenfranchised. Through redistributive social and economic policies, the Left has classically aimed to ensure that citizens’ basic needs are met so as to advance a more just and equal society. This general statement, however, begs the question of how the Latin American Left has viewed and prioritized that commitment....


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9 Venezuela: Hugo Ch

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pp. 213-238

The rise of the Bolivarian forces to power under the leadership of Hugo Ch

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10 Bolivia: Origins and Policies of the Movimiento al Socialismo

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pp. 239-259

In Bolivia, as in much of Latin America, the Left is resurgent. In 2005 Evo Morales, the indigenous leader of a relatively new leftist party, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), or the Movement toward Socialism, captured the presidency with a majority of the popular vote, the first time any presidential candidate has won an electoral majority since the return to democracy in 1982. Morales and the MAS followed up ...

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11 Ecuador: Rafael Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution

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pp. 260-282

As Ecuador prepared for a presidential inauguration in January 2007, signs of the country’s left turn were unmistakable. On the day before Rafael Correa swore in as president, he traveled to the provincial town of Zumbahua. Flanked by Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales, Correa donned a colorful poncho for a ritual blessing by indigenous elders. The festive occasion called for speeches. Invoking Simon Bolívar and ...

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12 Argentina: Left Populism in Comparative Perspective, 2003–2009

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pp. 283-305

It is difficult to place Argentina within the recent wave of leftist resurgence in Latin America. Comparative approaches that locate the governments of Néstor Kirchner (2003–7) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007–11) in the new map of the Latin American Left differ significantly. Although most general analyses (Cleary 2006; Lei-ras 2007, Roberts 2007) agree that the Kirchners’ administrations are part of the ...

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13 Brazil: The PT in Power

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pp. 306-324

The Workers’ Party in Brazil (the Partido dos Trabalhadores, or PT) started out in the 1980s as a mass-organic party that became increasingly electoral-professional in nature as it contested state power in the electoral arena. After 22 years in the opposition and three failed presidential bids, the Workers’ Party and its effective leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, captured national executive office for the first time in 2002. Among ...

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14 Chile: The Left after Neoliberalism

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pp. 325-347

Within Latin America’s post-1998 political shift to the left, Chile anchors one end of the spectrum along a number of crucial dimensions. On the policy front, the Socialist-led governments of Ricardo Lagos (2000–2006) and Michelle Bachelet (2006– 10) were undoubtedly among the most cautious and moderate in the region. They maintained relatively orthodox fiscal, monetary, and trade policies, while working to ...

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15 Uruguay: A Social Democratic Government in Latin America

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pp. 348-374

The debut of the Uruguayan Left in government (2005–10) inaugurated a social democratic alternative, which joined the experiences of this kind emerging in Latin America at the start of the 21st century. The “wave” of Latin American left governments, which began in the late 1990s, has been characterized by manifestations of populism or popular nationalism, which are varieties of a recurrent political phenomenon in ...

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16 Peru: The Left Turn That Wasn’t

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pp. 375-398

The day after Alan García Pérez, former president of Peru (1985–90) and leader of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Ameri-cana [APRA]) party, won the second round of the presidential election, the conservative newspaper El Comercio ran the headline “The Mandate for García Is Social Inclusion.”1 Owned by the aristocratic Miró Quesada family, which throughout much of ...

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Conclusion: Democracy, Development, and the Left

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pp. 399-428

As the case studies in this volume make clear, the Latin American Left is marked by considerable diversity. Despite a shared commitment to a more equitable development model, left governments in the region have varied both in their socioeconomic policies and in their approach to democratic governance. This variation ranges from liberal democratic governments in Brazil and Chile, which pursued redistributive ...


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pp. 429-460


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pp. 461-464


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pp. 465-480

E-ISBN-13: 9781421401614
E-ISBN-10: 1421401614
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421401102
Print-ISBN-10: 142140110X

Page Count: 496
Illustrations: 15 figures
Publication Year: 2011