Commentaryby Steve Ellner
Katz’s analysis of economic and political conditions in Latin America is applicable in fundamental ways to capitalism at the world level in the twenty-first century, specifically the years following the 2008 economic crisis. On the one hand, “Wall Street” has established an international division of labor that guarantees its hegemony and the maximization of profits. On the other hand, “Main Street” has not recovered from the crisis; inequality is greater than ever, while workers are more insecure and the marginalized sectors larger than in the past. Subjective conditions—widespread disillusionment, skepticism, and discontent—are favorable for movements for far-reaching change, although in some nations the trend favors radicals on both ends of the political spectrum.
Latin America has advanced farther to the left than other continents, and its governments have never in its history been so united and nationalistic. These positive developments, however, belie the relations of economic dependence that, as Katz demonstrates with ample evidence, represent a step backward to the period prior to the import-substitution stage of the early and mid-twentieth century. The dynamic sectors of the economy are confined to a limited number of mining and agricultural export commodities, while, with the exception of the maquila with its devastating social and environmental consequences, manufacturing production has suffered.
The key issue underlying Katz’s analysis is the relationship between the hegemonic worldwide capitalist system, on the one hand, and government policies and subjective conditions in Latin America, on the other. He rejects certain Marxist and neo-Marxist lines of thinking that posit the inability of existing governments to defy this all-powerful capitalist structure in any way short of a revolutionary break with the past. Thus, for instance, currents on the far left of the political spectrum have severely criticized the government of Evo Morales, who is accused of embracing a “neoliberal extractivism” …
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by Steve Ellner
Latin American Perspectives 2015 42: 47-50