Latin American Politics & Society 48.1 (2006) 175-187
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Globalization, Macroeconomic Policies, and Latin American Democracy
With the start of the new century, a reevaluation of the claims and expectations associated with globalization and with concomitant free market policies seemed to be in order. In the first place, the plausibility of far-reaching globalization predictions embodied in the term the end of history (Fukuyama 1992), in which internecine political conflicts were to become less intense and the U.S. political and economic model was to predominate, had obviously proved to be wishful thinking. In the second place, a group of establishment experts began to call for a thorough reevaluation of global practices and radical market reform policies, as well as the creation of a world system of guarantees and controls. These proposals were designed to avoid a possible worldwide crisis and other adverse byproducts of globalization. [End Page 175]
The reformers, who stand for what William Robinson calls "global neo-Keynesianism," include Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, global financier George Soros, and international consultant Jeffrey Sachs. Specifically with regard to Latin America, the hope that globalization would narrow the disparities between North and South failed to materialize as differences actually widened. Economic stagnation in the 1980s, followed by sluggish growth, dispelled the notion that globalization would generate an economic take-off for the entire continent. Latin American democracy seemed to fare better than the continent's economy in that most nations retained democratic systems for a longer period than at any other time in their history. Nevertheless, by the mid-1990s, various political scientists, beginning with Guillermo O'Donnell, questioned the quality of those democracies, and in doing so denied that a "deepening process" or a "consolidation process" was under way (O'Donnell 1994; Oxhorn and Ducatenzeiler 1998). Kurt Weyland, in the book under review and elsewhere, points to the "mixed record" of Latin American democracy under neoliberal governments (Weyland 2004a, b).
The books reviewed here focus on distinct aspects of globalization and neoliberalism from different ideological perspectives, and thereby evince distinct concerns. In general, the authors reflect on globalization experiences and related economic policies, modify models developed at the outset of the globalization era, and attempt to learn from past mistakes. None of them calls for a return to the national statist model or considers its restoration likely.
The Transnational State Thesis
Robinson, who is by far the most critical, draws on empirical evidence, including recent world economic trends and institutional developments. He attempts to refute the extremist model of globalization formulated at the phenomenon's outset, which envisions the withering away of nation-states. Along these lines, he criticizes what he calls "dualistic" notions, in which a clash between national structures and global ones eventually leads to the former's elimination and the latter's triumph. Instead, he denies national state structures' loss of relevance, even though they are being absorbed into what he calls the "transnational state" (TNS). The founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO), with its "independent jurisdiction" and "coercive capacity" (p. 78), and...