Development, Democracy, and Welfare States


Development, Democracy, and Welfare States: Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe
Stephan Haggard and Robert R. Kaufman
2008, Princeton University Press
473 pages

WELFARE reform and the broader reach of social policy is of fundamental importance to the fate of democracy in Latin America. Neoliberal policies exacerbated the polarization of societies already distinguished by high levels of social contrast. Alleviating that structural condition so that the principal beneficiaries of democratization – the marginalized and excluded members of society – gain concrete benefits from it is possibly the only way of ensuring that some of these countries do not return to their authoritarian ways. Haggard and Kaufman compare the different welfare paths of the countries following democratization and the move towards more open economies in the three regions that are examined in this book. They show how exclusionary welfare systems that shut out peasants and informal-sector workers combined with economic crisis in Latin America to create incentives to adopt liberal social-policy reforms. They explore the relationship between democracy and redistributive policies, as part of the key question now facing students of Latin America: whether the degree to which the variation in the achievements social policy might help to explain the varying performance of democratic regimes following transition. As ever in the case of Latin America, however, the picture is complex and heterogeneous, depending greatly on the welfare heritage in each country – but at all times appears to have been profoundly shaped by the real economic constraints the region laboured under in the 1990s until 2002 and today is labouring under again. As a result, this work provides significant research into the impact of the limitations faced by regimes of all colours when it comes to designing a range of social policies within fragile democracies. As the authors conclude: “The fiscal foundation of social entitlements cannot be overemphasized. The promise of a democracy is an empty one in the absence of the ability of the state to extract adequate resources to offset the risks of the market.” If there is a clear conclusion from this work, it is that no single prescription will provide a template for addressing the problems of injustice, inequality and poverty that plague Latin America. – GO’T

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