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Social Inequality and Social Policy outside the OECD: A New Research Perspective on Latin America


  • Hans-Jürgen Burchardt
  • Nico Weinmann


Almost all Latin American countries are still marked by extreme forms of social inequality – and to an extent, this seems to be the case regardless of national differences in the economic development model or the strength of democracy and the welfare state. Recent research highlights the fact that the heterogeneous labour markets in the region are a key source of inequality. At the same time, there is a strengthening of ‘exclusive’ social policy, which is located at the fault lines of the labour market and is constantly (re-)producing market-mediated disparities. In the last three decades, this type of social policy has even enjoyed democratic legitimacy. These dynamics challenge many of the assumptions guiding social policy and democratic theory, which often attempt to account for the specificities of the region by highlighting the purported flaws of certain policies. We suggest taking a different perspective: social policy in Latin American should not be grasped as a deficient or flawed type of social policy, but as a very successful relation of political domination. ‘Relational social analysis’ locates social policy in the ‘tension zone’ constituted by the requirements of economic reproduction, demands for democratic legitimacy and the relative autonomy of the state. From this vantage point, we will make the relation of domination in question accessible for empirical research. It seems particularly useful for this purpose to examine the recent shifts in the Latin American labour markets, which have undergone numerous reforms. We will examine which mechanisms, institutions and constellations of actors block or activate the potentials of redistribution inherent in such processes of political reform. This will enable us to explore the socio-political field of forces that has been perpetuating the social inequalities in Latin America for generations.

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  • Hans-Jürgen Burchardt & Nico Weinmann, 2012. "Social Inequality and Social Policy outside the OECD: A New Research Perspective on Latin America," ICDD Working Papers 5, University of Kassel, Fachbereich Gesellschaftswissenschaften (Social Sciences), Internatioanl Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD).
  • Handle: RePEc:ajy:icddwp:5

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