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Latin American Neostructuralism: The Contradictions of Post-Neoliberal Development, Fernando Ignacio Leiva, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008

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This review-essay offers an extended engagement with Fernando Ignacio Leiva’s Latin American Neostructuralism, one of the most important contributions to contemporary Latin-American political economy. It situates Leiva’s critique of neostructuralism against the wider backdrop of Latin America’s contradictory turn to the Left since the late 1990s, and compares the treatments of change in Latin-American capitalism over the course of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries developed by the schools of classical structuralism, neostructuralism, and neoliberalism. The essay finds that Leiva’s critique of neostructuralism and his explanation for its influence on large segments of the region’s Left is the best work on the topic currently available in English. Leiva systematically demolishes neostructuralism’s claim to be a progressive alternative to neoliberalism. At the same time, it is argued that Leiva’s theoretical framework is compromised by its uncritical adoption of categories from French regulation-theory, and its nostalgia for elements of classical structuralism and its associated development-model of import-substitution industrialisation. Further, it is found that Leiva’s implicit attachment to certain myths propagated by the Marxism of the Second and, especially, Third Internationals regarding the national bourgeoisie’s role in Third-World capitalist development leaves him unduly dogmatic about the necessity, and unduly optimistic about the possibility, of building a progressive stage of capitalism in Latin America today. The same mythologies prevent Leiva from drawing the appropriate conclusions as regards the urgent necessity of rebuilding the socialist project in Latin America and internationally.

Affiliations: 1: Queen Mary, University of London, Email:


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