The economic context of social protests in 2013

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The mass movements that erupted in June 2013 were the largest Brazilian protests in a generation; they signaled the onset of a new wave of political polarization and social conflict in the country. These movements had a distinctive social, economic, and political character, which stands in sharp contrast to the mobilizations that took place between 1977 and 1985, which led to the collapse of the military dictatorship, and those preceding the resignation of President Fernando Collor in 1992 (they would also stand in contrast to later demonstrations taking place in 2015 and 2016, but these are outside the scope of this chapter).1 While the earlier movements were narrowly focused around the demand for democracy, in the first instance, and the ouster of a president who was widely regarded as both corrupt and incompetent, in the second, the 2013 protests expressed a diverse set ofdemands concerning public service provision, governance, corruption, human rights, international sporting events, and religious matters, among other issues. These movements also received supportive media coverage at a much earlier stage than previous mass campaigns. Finally, while theearlier movements expressed left-wing transformative demandsthrough the language of civic rights and democracy, the 2013 demonstrations reflected conflicting social, economic, and political agendas including-for the first time since 1964-extreme right-wing views.

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This brief text offers an unbiased reflection on debates about neoliberalism and its alternatives in Latin America with an emphasis on the institutional puzzle that underlies the region’s difficulties with democratization and development. In addition to providing an overview of this key element of the Latin American political economy, Peter Kingstone also advances the argument that both state-led and market-led solutions depend on effective institutions, but little is known about how and why they emerge. Kingstone offers a unique contribution by mapping out the problem of how to understand institutions, why they are created, and why Latin American ones limit democratic development. This timely and thorough update includes: • A fresh discussion of the commodity boom in the region and the resulting “Golden Era” in Latin America; • The recent explosion of social policy innovation and concerns about the durability of social reform after the boom; • A discussion of the knowledge economy and the limits to economic growth, with case studies of successful examples of fostering innovation.
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