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Social movements and the state: Political power dynamics in Latin America

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Chapter Summary

Economic and social development requires changes in the structure of class relations and the configuration of political power. With particular reference to developments in Latin America it is possible to identify three basic modalities of social change and political power. The modalities are electoral politics, construction of social movements, and social action in the direction of local development. The neoliberal model is predicated on a minimalist state – withdrawal of the state from the process of economic and social development and its replacement with the “free market,” a structure supposedly freed from the constraints of government regulation and other interferences in the normal workings of a system in its allocation of society’s productive resources. The micro-reforms and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) promoted a pacific or “civil” form of politics, turning the rural poor away from the social movements into local self-help “projects” funded from above and the outside.

Keywords: capitalist state; CONAIE; Latin America; neoliberal model; non-governmentalorganisations (NGOs); political power dynamics; social movements; workers party (PT)



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