CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

Populism and Social Policy in Latin America

December 7th, 2011
5:00 PM

Location
Greenleaf Conference Room, 100a Jones Hall

A Lecture Featuring Kurt Weyland.

Populism and Social Policy in Latin America

Professor Kurt Weyland will examine the relationship between populism and social policy in contemporary Latin America to close the CIPR Fall 2011 Seminar Series. Weyland will compare the populist administrations of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (1999-present) and Alberto Fujimori in Peru (1990-2000) with the non-populist, reformist government of Luis Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil (2003-10) and the center-left Concertación coalition in Chile. He argues that, essentially, populist governments have some advantages in their social policy making, but the disadvantages end up being more significant.

Populist leaders concentrate power and tend to use it for creating substantial social programs quickly. By allocating significant financial resources, they try to alleviate pressing needs fast. But since populist leaders exercise their power in a discretionary, haphazard fashion, these new social programs often suffer from inefficiency, problematic design, politicization, and deficient implementation and are subject to setbacks and reversals. As a result of this, their accomplishments tend not to last. Whereas left-leaning presidents who are not populists construct their reforms brick by brick, populist leaders build sandcastles that rise quickly, but are as quickly washed away by the waves of changing economic or political conjunctures.

Kurt Weyland is Professor of Government and Lozano Long Professor of Latin American Politics at the University of Texas at Austin. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford (1991) and has conducted research in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, and Venezuela. Based on his investigations, he has published Democracy without Equity: Failures of Reform in Brazil (Pittsburgh, 1996); The Politics of Market Reform in Fragile Democracies (Princeton, 2002); Bounded Rationality and Policy Diffusion: Social Sector Reform in Latin America (Princeton, 2007); a volume co-edited with his UT colleagues Raúl Madrid and Wendy Hunter, Leftist Governments in Latin America: Successes and Shortcomings (Cambridge, 2010); and many articles and book chapters on democratization, neoliberalism, populism, and social policy in Latin America.

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