The Latin American Left: fighting for democracy from above and below

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Title: The Latin American Left: fighting for democracy from above and below
Author: Ames, Elizabeth
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Political Science
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2000
Abstract: The goal of this paper is to set up a theoretical framework for understanding Leftist development in Latin America. While I believe that a Left of center government is more capable of expanding democratic ideals, the existence of a Left of center government in power is not enough, per se, to guarantee a greater level of democracy. When successful in the enhancement of democracy, Leftist governments work to achieve greater popular participation and greater state influence on the economy. The economic philosophy behind neoliberalism runs counter to Leftist ideology, therefore, the Left must provide a viable alternative if they hope to deepen democracy for the society as a whole. Neo-liberalism may be good for economic growth but it is decidedly bad for social and economic equality. Two case studies, Brazil and Chile, show very different evolutions of the Left. In Brazil I have focused on how the Worker's Party affected the degree of democracy in Brazil. It is my contention that the actions of the Workers Party have aided in the enhancement of Brazilian Democracy. In Chile, I have focused on the evolution of the modem center-Left coalition, Concertaci6n, in government. While achieving a greater degree of national prominence than the Workers Party, it is my contention that Concertaci6n has been less effective in enhancing democracy in Chile. Just as democracy can never achieve a perfect form, the Left can never act as the perfect catalyst for deepening democracy. With the specific problems plaguing modem day Latin America: incredible disparities of wealth, the rise of informal sectors of society, and militaries that continue to be a greater threat than they are a protective force, the Left has great potential to galvanize popular support. I would like to explore the notion that a Leftist government is more capable of producing democratic results and deepening democratic society than the current centrist/rightist governments that are currently in power in Latin America. Leftist movements are far more concerned with the substantive effects of democracy; the extension of elections, rule of law, and guarantees of civil liberties beyond the political sphere and into the economic and social. As a guarantor of democracy the Left holds far more promise especially for the incredible number of poor that have been left outside of the formal sector of society by the recent imposition of neo-liberalism. Rather than seeing the poor as a social expense, the Left hopes to expand and politicize the working class as an investment in the future (Vilas .22). In this paper I will explain the potential, the opportunities, and the obstacles for the development of the Latin American Left as both an ideological and a practical political movement. I will establish the criterion that aid or impede the development of Leftist movements and then compare that theoretical model to the actual experience of the development of the Worker's Party in Brazil and Concertaci6n in Chile. In doing so, I will explain the growth of Leftist movements as well as their importance for the future development of democracy in Latin America.
Subject: Right and left (Political science) -- Latin America
Subject: Latin America -- Politics and government -- 20th century
Subject: Liberalism -- Latin America
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Ames, Elizabeth. "The Latin American Left: fighting for democracy from above and below". 2000. Available electronically from

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