Since the social sector has regrouped--as manifested in the struggles against privatizations--following setbacks in the s and s. However, this offensive occurred within a social landscape modified by the neoliberal model. The most obvious tactical adaptations embraced by grassroots activists are related to the nonexistence of a central stakeholder comparable to workers in the previous period.
In their stead a diverse ensemble of protagonists from informally employed and unemployed laborers to technicians and professionals has emerged, establishing de facto alliances responding to concrete situations. In all cases, there has been a tendency for distinct relations to be established between social forces and political ones.
The vitality of the mobilizations has been provided by the former, while the latter seek to reshape old structures on the left as in the Bolivian case or are excluded offstage as in Peru. The South American struggles against privatization also reveal the increasing weakness of nation-states. Except in Uruguay, where the state has maintained discipline over civil society, governments have exhibited a striking inability to resolve social conflict without resorting to repression.
This undermining of social contracts is directly related to neoliberal policies and to the further weakening of the traditional left throughout most of the continent. Sociocultural changes are reflected in changing forms of struggle, closely linked to the crisis of representation experienced in most Latin American countries.
Road closings and insurrectional mobilizations have nudged into the political space once occupied by the labor movement's strikes and work stoppages. These innovative forms of struggle have two noteworthy characteristics: they represent the emergence of geographically delimited stakeholders with a new configuration and spatial relationship in which shantytown dwellers, peasants, the unemployed, women, and young people all play a significant role.
Grassroots movements seize public spaces, because they reject representation. By organizing independently, they give life to a new grassroots force that has characterized the most important civic battles in recent years in Latin America.
Lastly, a new debate is taking shape that is intimately related both to the failure of privatizations and to the success of struggles against neoliberalism: What is to be done with the privatized companies? How are they to be recovered? And, above all, how are they to be managed, and who is to manage them?
The recent referendum in Bolivia may provide some insights. First, the social movement, which appeared very united in its opposition to privatization, fragmented when solutions were sought. The Bolivian people's solidarity in defending the gas nationalization with their lives evaporated when Carlos Mesa's government called for the July 18 consultation. The problem, in the end, is the state. An increasing number of social sectors are suspicious of governments' capacity to properly manage national resources.
The memory of corruption in the managing of companies that were later privatized undermines the option of state ownership.
Nevertheless, the debate is still alive. In Bolivia, since both the water war in Cochabamba and the October uprising over the gas issue, as well as in Argentina and in many other countries, these issues are being hotly debated.
The choice is no longer reduced to public vs. The Argentine economist Julio Gambina, echoing the sentiment of popular assemblies and piquetero unemployed groups, recognizes that the outright nationalization of the privatized companies is not the answer, "because [nationalized companies] end up being bureaucratic and subjugated to the political group that happens to run the state at a given moment.
All of these options can be open to joint management by consumers, workers, and perhaps the state. If this direction is strengthened and clarified, the terrible history of privatizations might yet have a happy ending.
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Joseph E. He is known for his critical view of the management of globalization, free-market economists whom he calls "free market fundamentalists" and some international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Since , he has been a member of the Columbia faculty, and has held the rank of University Professor since Stiglitz is one of the most frequently cited economists in the world. Description in Spanish: Joseph E.
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