895 - Neoliberalism, political entrepreneurs and think tank networks in Latin America

18.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30
18.07.2012 | 17:30 - 19:30

Convener 1: Fischer, Karin (Instut für Soziologie , Linz, Austria / Österreich)
Convener 2: Ramírez, Hernán (Universidade Estadual de Londrina, Centro de Letras e Ciências Humanas, Departamento de História, Londrina PR, Brazil / Brasilien)

Latin America had been a privileged territory for neoliberal transformation. At first, military dictatorships dismantled the import substitution model and people’s ability to defend their interests. In the 1980s and 1990s, virtually all countries adopted the key elements of the so-called Washington Consensus, ranging from the privatization of industrial resources and state functions to deregulation and highly restrictive fiscal policies. The restructuring of the economy was yoked to equally wide-ranging social changes aimed at a reconfiguration of the relations between capital, the state, and labour.

Though market radical paradigms and policies are increasingly contested, core aspects of neoliberal hegemony remain in place. The ongoing strength of neoliberal principles and policy can be attributed, at least partially, to corporate elite policy groups and networks of neoliberal knowledge production and diffusion, i.e. intellectuals and think tanks. In our view, these networks and interest groups constitute an important feature in the analysis of agents and structures of neoliberal transformation.

This symposium seeks to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how neoliberal transformation has been applied and why its principles are still effective. Empirically, the contributors focus on policy forces which are crucial in (re)producing, circulating and facilitating neoliberalism. They examine the networking and power strategies of ideational entrepreneurs like economists and think tanks, interest groups, and the entrepreneurial elite in various situated contexts.

In order to better understand neoliberal reform as a variegated and contradictory process the symposium will bring together different strands of theories. Global political economy literature influenced by neo-Gramscian ideas can be purposefully exploited to capture socio-economic transformation and class structures. Efforts to better account for institutional change have reinforced the need to look more closely at the links between interests and ideas. New institutionalism has developed a research agenda in recognition of the complexity of ideational dimensions of preference formation and the politics of expertise. Finally, discourse and knowledge organizations need to be analysed in the context of think tanks, interest groups and power elite networking. In this manner, the power of ideas and expertise will be put in relation to institutions, organizations and actors capable of advancing or restraining discourses and outcomes.

I n our view, neoliberalism cannot be conceptualised in an outside-in perspective, i.e. as something imposed from outside a country. The contributors will therefore focus on the transnational dimensions and processes of elite integration, discourse communities and class formation . We expect inputs to overcome the juxtaposition between domestic and external social spheres.

Keywords: Neoliberalism, transformation, actors, agency

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