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Assessing Latin America's "Left Turn": Political Diversity and the Search for Development Alternatives

December 1 and 2, 2006, Cornell University

Starting with Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, six left-of-center presidents have been elected in Latin America since 1998, placing roughly two-thirds of the regional population under some form of leftist government. This "left turn" has shaken up Latin America's post-Cold War political landscape and startled scholars and policymakers alike who spent the past two decades touting the region's embrace of free market reforms. This project explores Latin America's "left turn," focusing on its diverse expressions and the performance of new leftist governments in public office. It combines theoretical analyses of major substantive issues with rigorous comparative assessments of different national experiences.

Questions to be addressed and discussed for this research include:

  1. What are the sources of the diverse organizational bases and political trajectories and what are the implications for the orientation and stability of the different leftist experiments?
  2. How have disparate experiences with neoliberalism conditioned the economic development options and social policy choices of new leftist governments?
  3. How did the remarkably diverse relationships that new leftist governments have with social movements and civil society develop and diverge, and how do they shape and constrain the policy choices of the left in public office? 4) What factors have shaped the varied responses to global markets and U.S. power by the new leftist governments?

This project will provide substantial benefits to both the academic and foreign policy communities with an interest in Latin American development, as workshops organized around the principal research questions will be designed to help bridge the gap between academic and policymaking communities. The affiliated research will be disseminated and debated at professional conferences and published in high-visibility academic outlets. Additionally, Cornell faculty and graduate students will benefit through their contact with prominent scholars and policymakers in the development field. This collaborative project will also lay a foundation for a longer-term independent research project at Cornell for which external funding will be sought.

Friday, Dec. 1

A.D. White House

8:30-9:00 Coffee and continental breakfast

9:00Welcome and Introductory Remarks

9:05-10:20Opening Discussion: What's Left, and What's Not? Populism, Social Democracy, and Bolivarianism in the Neoliberal Era
Facilitators: Ken Roberts, Steve Levitsky

10:20-10:30Coffee Break

10:30-12:30Roundtable Panel I: Parties, Elections, and Political Movements
Panelists: Mañuel Antonio Garretón, Margarita López-Maya, Jorge Lanzaro, Wendy Hunter, David Samuels

12:30-1:30Lunch Break

1:30-3:30 Roundtable Panel II: Social Protest, Civil Society, and Party-Society Linkages
Panelists: Ruth Berins Collier, Deborah Yashar, Benjamin Goldfrank, Raúl Madrid (Discussant Sidney Tarrow)

4:00-6:00HEC Auditorium, Goldwin SmithPublic Forum: Assessing Latin America's "Left Turn": Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia
Panelists: Mañuel Antonio Garretón, Margarita López-Maya, Jorge Lanzaro, Wendy Hunter, Raúl Madrid, María Victoria Murillo

6:30 A.D. White HouseReception

Saturday, Dec. 2

Room 106 White Hall

9:00-9:30 Coffee and continental breakfast

9:30-11:30 Roundtable Panel III: Social and Economic Policy Alternatives
Panelists: Barbara Stallings, Albert Fishlow, María Victoria Murillo, Kurt Weyland

11:30-12:30 Lunch Break

12:30-2:30Roundtable Panel IV: The Left in the International Arena
Panelists: Michael Shifter, Max Cameron

2:30-2:45 Coffee break

2:45-4:15 Brainstorming Session: What Have We Learned? Where Do We Go from Here?

4:15-4:30 Planning/Future Logistics