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Multilateral Agencies and Top-down Development Discourse in Latin America

Beatriz Junqueira Lage Carbone
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Beatriz Junqueira Lage Carbone
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Open Panel

Abstract

The dominant economic speech addressing poverty in Latin America (LA), is largely informed by the conceptions associated to the economic growth ideas as disseminated by the World Bank and ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), during the 80s and 90s. It is recognized that this two Agencies played a role in the composition of public policies related to the Structural Adjustment Programs in LA in the same period. By doing this, these two actors contributed to setting up a normative dimension on issues of development and poverty reduction which helped to construct subjectivities related to the impoverished and their social roles. Most of these subjectivities regarded to the insertion of low-wage classes into the “national development project”. The objective of this piece is to problematize the prevailing economic discourse for development informed by the major ideas disseminated by ECLAC and the World Bank and voiced by Latin American elite in the 80s and 90s in the light of postcolonial theory. Most specifically, this paper is aimed at discussing the silencing ability of this approach in terms of class and gender. The elite’s economic approach to “national development and international insertion” themes, as supported by Multilateral Agencies, is at the same time theoretical, scientific and patriotic. By being theoretical, this discourse relies on the authority of academia and International Agencies. In the end it reduces subaltern groups to subjects/targets of public policies while establishing a debate which dismisses them as political subjects involved in disputes and social struggles over class, gender and race. Therefore the paper will also discuss the role played by ECLAC and the World Bank, as part of a normative dimension, in the establishment of representations and conceptions associated with gender inequality and poverty issues in LA.