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Latin AmericaR. James Ferguson © 2006

Lecture 12:

The Quest for Stability -

From Dependence to Interdependence

Topics: -

1. Societies in Transition

2. Partial Achievements, Partial Failures

3. Leverage Towards a Better Future

4. From Dependence to Interdependence

5. Bibliography and Resources

1. Societies in Transition

In many ways, the countries and societies of Latin America can still be viewed as nations in transition. Although the key elements of statehood have been developed for almost two centuries of independence (see lectures 1 & 2), the main historical and economic forces are still reshaping conditions in much of the region, in part through transition to electoral democracy, more participation based societies, and in part via the opening of major national economies towards regional trade areas (e.g. NAFTA, CAFTA, Mercosur and the proposed FTAA), and in general towards the reduction of barriers to global trade flows. This makes Latin America politics very much a part of the global network, even as the retains its unique cultures, diversified communities, and remote, partially integrated rural and indigenous societies.

This means that much remains to be done to meet the aspirations and needs of Latin Americans, and in reaching stable conditions of relative prosperity across the region. Likewise, the path towards modernity taken by Latin America has been somewhat different to that found in Europe, North America and Australasia, impacting on current debates about national identity and valid aspirations for the future (see Larrain 1999). At present it is not possible to build a narrow Latin American identity on notions of indigenous revival, nor just on the Ibero-American tradition, nor on the Christian/Catholic traditions (Larrain 1999, p183). The future goals for the region, though having high consensus on some broad outlines, e.g. continued growth and greater democratisation, are still intensely debated. Issues such as social justice, wealth distribution, civil society engagement, the role of the military in resolving political disputes, and the degree to which Latin America should remain under the past 'tutelage' of the U.S. and Europe are still highly controversial (though this is turning towards a more complex engagement model, in part driven by US security concerns and by Mercosur's dialogue with the EU). Likewise, several different models of regional engagement based on different trade alignments (including Mercosur, the proposed FTAA, NAFTA and CAFTA groupings) have been intensely debated through 2004-2006, in part based on differential regional benefits, and in part on the interest of large key players including the U.S., Brazil, Argentina (see lectures 9 & 11) and tensions in energy alignments generated by Venezuela foreign policy efforts under President Chavez.

Lecture 12

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