'Signs of the Times': Capitalism, Competitiveness, and the New Face of Empire in Latin America

Paul Cammack


My focus is on some 'signs of the times' in Latin America and further afield. I shall not dwell on the long history of the 'inherited evils' of incomplete capitalist development in the region, except to note their impact on the capacity of the 'ruling class' either to exercise authority over local and foreign capitalists, or to build legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of the population. These twin indicators of the absence of bourgeois hegemony in the region have been much remarked upon, notably in Atilio Boron's dissection of the incapacity of contemporary rulers either to collect taxes from the wealthy or to 'provide the collective goods needed for the bare reproduction of civilized life'. Taking as the starting-point the conclusion that this situation is problematic for Latin American ruling classes themselves, I point to evidence of an emphatic turn across the region to the systematic pursuit of international competitiveness as a response, and the opening up as a consequence of a new phase of class struggle. Taking a cue from Gregory Albo, I explore three aspects of the internal reorganization of the state in Latin America--the internalization of international competitiveness 'as a central objective to mediate between the territorialization of value production and increased dependence upon international circulation'; the pursuit of a 'redistributive strategy of competitive austerity'; and the 'internationalization of state apparatuses to mediate the extension and intensification of the world market' through regionalization and the liberal reform of global regulation.

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