Contemporary Latin America


Contemporary Latin America: Development and Democracy Beyond the Washington Consensus
Francisco Panizza
2009, Zed Books
305 pages

WHAT makes Francisco Panizza’s latest book so absorbing is that it is in large part about the political reverberations of potent ideas: how one uncritical “common sense of the time” can shape a regional agenda yet then give way to another, equally ethereal consensus under the social pressures it has, for the most part, generated itself. Contemporary Latin America examines the intellectual and political journey from the Washington Consensus – the reformist free-market policy agenda embraced so enthusiastically in the 1990s – to the post-Washington Consensus characterised by a heterogeneous “pink tide” of left-of-centre governments. Panizza seeks to identify the winners and losers of the free market reform process, and the political impact their confrontation has had in the context of democratization. He explores the tenuous balancing act undertaken by Latin American countries struggling to shake off the authoritarian past between the polarization exacerbated by neoliberal reform and the healthy political struggle that is essential for the survival of capitalist democracy. Set against signs that exports from Latin American and Caribbean nations are set to show a precipitous decline in 2009, such a study of the relationship between the broad, global framework upon which economic policymaking has been made in Latin America and the region’s unique political reflexes seems particularly timely. Panizza shares insights gained over many years of writing and teaching on democracy and development in Latin America, and all students of the region will be better off for reading his book. – GO’T

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