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The recent wave of progressive politics in Latin America cannot be understood without reference to the social movements that helped bring left-wing governments to power. After playing a key role in Latin America’s transitions to democracy, social movements came to prominence again by challenging persistent inequality and exclusion based on a profound critique of the existing political and economic frameworks. Yet despite their significance there is a lack consistent and comparative analysis and conceptualization of the role of social movements in these political changes. In particular, the relationship between social movements and progressive governments is not yet well-understand, including the extent to which social movements were able to maintain their critical stance after the left-wing electoral victories. This workshop is particularly opportune because now that the left-wing tide appears to wane in Latin America, social movements once again face a hostile environment. The workshop seeks to fill this gap by inviting papers that offer an empirically grounded analysis of social movements in Latin America, placing the social movements in their particular social and political context, assessing relations with progressive government and political parties, and exploring to what extent they may offer alternatives now that the progressive wave seems to be subsiding. The contemporary role of social movements in Latin America can only be understood in terms of their historical context. During the nationalist, state-led development phase (1930-1970) social movements often mobilized in support of ‘populist’ governments as well as their own objectives (Munck, 2013). This was the period in which labour movements – both urban and rural – emerged and were consolidated. With industrialization came urbanization and with it the rise of place-based social movements such as neighbourhood associations, consumer co-operatives and other forms of communal associations (see Schneider 1995). These two sets of social movements are often dubbed ‘old’ social movements but, in fact, they have also been very much to the fore during recent times, having often transformed to meet new conditions. What they did have in common was an orientation to the national state to meet their demands in the workplace and in the communities. Politically they were often aligned with mainstream as well as opposition political parties and they tended to support the dominant development strategies of these parties. The 1970s and 1980s were a period of polarization which saw the radicalization of many social movements but also the emergence of the ‘modern’ military dictatorships which sought to diminish the role of the social movements (see Eckstein 1989). The social movements tended to become radicalized during this phase as for example with the urban squatters’ movements seeking land and basic services in a number of countries. Under the dictatorships new actors and new issues came to the fore, thus for example sections of the Catholic Church (in Chile and Brazil) took up a ‘pro- poor’ and pro- democracy stance and new human rights focused movements emerged (as in Argentina) focused on the abuse of basic democratic rights (Foweraker 2001; Hellman 1995; Munck 2013). The language of rights thus came to the fore: human rights, employment rights, women’s rights, land rights, etc. It was women who became the main drivers of the human rights movements in many countries but they were often also the majority in struggles in the urban periphery around housing and sanitation issues. We see during this period a continuation of material demands for economic redistribution but also agitation for political rights which condense in the demands for equality before the law and, above all, on the rights to citizenship (see Oxhorn 2001). The social movements played a considerable (if uneven) role across the region in the re- democratization process although in the democratic phase that followed they were sometimes demobilized or co- opted by government. The 1990s represented the high point of free-market politics, the retreat of the state and a shift from collective to individual identity formation as the formerly democratic regimes continued the neoliberal policies of the military dictatorships. This gave rise to a range of popular reactions as society sought to protect itself from the corrosive effects of unregulated market polices (Harris 2003). New social practices emerged based on reciprocity and collective solidarity as social movements sought to envisage an alternative development model. New social actors emerged such as the unemployed and the Amerindian peoples; based on new forms of organisation with identity politics at their core (Alvarez & Escobar, 1992). These struggles were multi-scalar with local, national and transnational manifestations (for example Vía Campesina) combining in complex ways (Kay et al 2008). Other forms of protest continued such as mass urban uprisings (e.g. the Caracazo in Venezuela 1989) against the impact of neo-liberalism which helped pave the way for the emergence of the left-of-centre governments that spread across the region from the late 1990s onwards. The period we are focused on in this workshop is that running from around 2000 to 2016, that is, the period which saw rise and fall of the left-of-centre governments across Latin America. In many countries mobilized social movements played a key role in facilitating the unprecedented electoral rise of various leftist or ‘progressive’ governments. However, there is a common view that “progressive governments are seldom beneficial for social movements” (Biekart 2005) insofar as they led to divisions and co-optations of these movements. Of course, supporters of the progressive governments will point, on the other hand, to the benefits for excluded or oppressed groups in terms of poverty reduction and a much greater degree of democratization. In reality there have been a whole range of different outcomes that cannot be reduced to a simple choice between co-operation with the government or co-option by it. The workshop discussions will therefore investigate empirically how various social movements in different countries have fared under the progressive governments. In the literature on the contemporary political role of social movements we find a series of binary oppositions that, arguably, need to be superseded to achieve a more rounded and complex analysis adequate to the subject under discussion. This rather polarized set of perspectives goes back, at least, to the 1960s debate between the then dominant US resource mobilization approach focused on how social movements mobilized time and money in pursuit of their objectives, and the post-1968 more ‘European’ identity focused approach to social movements (see Touraine 1978, Zirakzadeh 2006, Munck 2007). The so-called ‘new’ social movements of students, women and ecologists were seen as identity-focused as against the economistic focus supposedly characterizing the traditional labour movements. What both approaches assume is a dense civil society that was not really present in Latin America where the state dominated and was the natural interlocutor of the social movements. We could, furthermore, argue that these approaches are not incompatible insofar as social movements can at one and the same time be involved in personal and collective identity-formation while also articulating instrumental strategic objectives. Beyond this somewhat polarized debate we do see some more nuanced views on the relationship between the social and the political (see Baño 1985), the local and the global (see Almeida 2014) and the tense relationship between grassroots autonomy and engagement with the state (see Foweraker 1995) which serve as pointers for our own research. see some more nuanced views on the relationship between the social and the political (see Baño 1985), the local and the global (see Almeida 2014) and the tense relationship between grassroots autonomy and engagement with the state (see Foweraker 1995) which serve as starting points for the workshop discussions. References Almeida, P (2014) Mobilizing Democracy: Globalization and Citizenship Protest. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Baño, R (1985) Lo social y lo político: Un dilema clave del movimiento popular, Santiago: FLACSO. Biekart, K (2005) “Seven theses on Latin American social movements and political change”, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 23, 7. Eckstein, S (ed) (1989) Power and Popular Protest. Latin American Social Movements. Berkeley: University of California Press. Escobar, A and Alvarez, S (eds) (1992) The Making of Social Movements in Latin. America: Identity, Strategy, and Democracy, Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Foweraker, J (1195) Theorizing Social Movements. London: Pluto. Harris, R (2003) 'Popular Resistance to Globalization and Neoliberalism in Latin America', Journal of Developing Societies, 19: 365-426. Hellman, J (1992) “Latin American Social Movements and the Question of Autonomy," in Arturo Escobar and Sonia E. Alvarez, eds., New Social Movements in Latin America: Identity, Strategy and Democracy, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 52-61. Munck, R (2007) Globalization and Contestation. The new great counter- movement. London and New York: Routledge Munck, R (2013/2015) Rethinking Latin America: Development, Hegemony and Social Transformation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Oxhorn, P (2001) “From human rights to citizenship rights? Recent trends in the study of Latin American social movements”, Latin American Research Review, Vol 36, No3, pp 163-182. Schneider, C (1995) Shanytown Protest in Pinochet’s Chile. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Slater, D (ed.) (1985) New social movements and the state in Latin America. Amsterdam: CEDLA. Touraine, A (1978) The Voice and the Eye: An Analysis of Social Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zirakzadeh, CE (2006) Social Movements in Politics: A Comparative Study. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Zubiria Mutis, B (2016) ‘Movimientos sociales en América Latina y teoría sociológica: una aproximación’ in Roberto González Arana y Alejandro Schneider (eds) Sociedades en conflicto. Movimientos sociales y movimientos armados en América Latina. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.
To address these theoretical and empirical questions, the workshop aims to foster comparative debate on the relationship between social movements and progressive governments: whether they clash, collaborate or operate in creative tension; and how these relations evolved after left-wing electoral victories. We invite paper proposals from postgraduate students, early career and established scholars that address the following aims from both an empirical and theoretical perspective, based on single or comparative case studies from across the Latin American region. The first aim is to better understand the role of social movements in the rise of left-of-centre governments in Latin America. We know that in some cases this role was significant (e.g. Bolivia), with a direct link between mass mobilization and left-wing election victories. In other cases (e.g. Ecuador), there was no direct link between social movements and the election of left-wing governments. By comparing such cases, the workshop aims to establish the key causal factors explaining Latin America’s swing to the left. The second aim is to examine the subsequent relationship between left-wing governments and social movements, focusing on episodes of collaboration and conflict. This topic not only concerns the question whether social movements were able to maintain their political autonomy vis-à-vis progressive governments but also the extent to which social movements succeeded in changing the political agenda. Thirdly, to better understand conflict and collaboration between these political actors, we welcome papers that examine the intricate relationship between social movements, left-wing governments and political parties.
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