- Leadership, Responsibility, Perhaps DemocracyNew Thinking about Latin American Development
Five thoughtful new books by sociologists (Diane E. Davis and most of the contributors to the Charles H. Wood and Bryan R. Roberts volume), economists (contributors to the William Easterly and Luis Servén volume), and political scientists (Atul Kohli and most of the authors in the book edited by Richard L. Harris) address the big questions. Each, including even the three that are collective works, presents strong and reasonably clear causal hypotheses about development. One common if sometimes implicit theme is that of leadership and assuming responsibility for one's own national outcomes: these authors believe in and would like to inﬂuence public policy interventions. There is an interesting apparent consensus that the default deﬁnition of "development" includes both growth in per capita income and better social indicators, while the road to developmental success implies some combination of space [End Page 202] for market efﬁciency and assertive political governance of the national economic regulatory framework. Most contributors decry the too passive and timid Latin American state that has resulted from two decades of neoliberal economic reforms. The books' assessment of economic globalization and expectations of the policy consequences of participatory politics are more mixed.
The volume edited by Richard Harris explicitly attributes most of contemporary Latin America's social ills to globalization managed for—and often by—corporate capitalism. Its straightforward, speciﬁc information may be of particular use to activists. The ﬁrst three chapters indict U.S. Democrats for supporting free trade via the NAFTA, WTO, and FTAA and connect liberalized trade in services with reduced public spending on social welfare and worsening health outcomes in the region. Jorge Nef argues that even where mean outcomes (morbidity and mortality) have improved, access to health care in a world of increasingly privatized service provision has become more variable and insecure for that quarter or so of the population of countries that is absolutely poor. He also presents data on the extent of deprivation in nutrition and access to health care, as well as the region's well-known and horrendous patterns of income distribution. Nonetheless, the causal links in the book's larger anti-neoliberal and anti-globalization arguments remain ambiguous. For example, according a table drawn from FAO data (100), many countries in the Caribbean and Central America saw food security remain ﬂat or worsen slightly between 1979–81 and 1996–98, which surely is an indictment of something. Yet those with the largest increases in the share of the population malnourished (Cuba, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Panama) run the gamut from centrally planned Cuba to ofﬁcially dollarized Panama. Moreover, after deteriorating during the debt crisis in several countries, nutritional outcomes improved throughout South America in the 1990s, except in Venezuela. One can argue that the improvement would have been greater in the absence of trade liberalization and other IMF-promoted reforms, but this logic would be more convincing if it were explicit. In any case, should the 1980s debt crisis be told as a cautionary tale about globalization—or about inward-looking import-substitution industrialization (ISI)? Both interpretations are plausible. (I return to the book's chapters on social movements below.)
There are interesting parallels between the Harris volume and its most obvious foil among the ﬁve, the World Bank publication...