In This Review

Latin America's Political Economy of the Possible: Beyond Good Revolutionaries and Free-Marketeers
Latin America's Political Economy of the Possible: Beyond Good Revolutionaries and Free-Marketeers
By Javier Santiso
MIT Press, 2006, 340 pp.

Despite all the handwringing over faltering reforms and resurgent radicalism in Latin America, the real story in the region may be considerably more hopeful. A new breed of policymaker, focused on modest ends and committed to pragmatic means, has largely replaced the grandiose right- and left-wing ideologues of old. That change, writes Santiso, an economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, signals "the emergence of an economic model that is more concerned with the ethics of consequences than with the ethics of convictions." Santiso's exemplar is Chile, with its Socialists' eclectic combination of "privatization with regulation, trade openness with ongoing state ownership of the mining sector, and financial liberalization with capital controls." Others, including Brazil's left-wing Luiz Iná¡cio Lula da Silva, Colombia's conservative Álvaro Uribe, and a slew of recent Mexican leaders, have fashioned their own variations on this state-market mix. (From this perspective, Hugo Chávez's headline-grabbing, oil-financed populism in Venezuela is more an anomaly than a sign of things to come.) Santiso's analysis of these trends is perceptive and persuasive. In many cases, however, the pragmatists' policies have so far not delivered enough in terms of growth and poverty reduction -- which makes it unfortunate that Santiso says little about how to ensure that the new pragmatism does not end up as yet another shattered consensus on the ash heap of Latin American history.