Bounded Rationality and Policy Diffusion: Social Sector Reform in Latin America

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Bounded Rationality and Policy Diffusion: Social Sector Reform in Latin America

By Kurt Weyland
Princeton University Press, 2007
312 pp. $60.00
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In this important scholarly polemic, a well-regarded political scientist takes aim at dependency theorists who exaggerate U.S. coercive power as well as at mainstream scholars who assume the simplifying maxims of full rationality to be true. He also takes shots at colleagues who focus overly on political parties, electoral systems, and legislatures while neglecting the complex interplay among powerful executive-branch agencies. An advocate of in-depth case studies and cognitive psychology, Weyland examines the recent waves of reform of pension and public health-care systems in Latin America and diligently interviews the many combatants who favored, resisted, or modified various reform proposals. He convincingly concludes that although external forces (notably the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) often influenced local decision-makers, smart national governments, self-protective opposition politicians, and mobilized civil-society organizations generally retained the upper hand -- that is, within certain constraints, Latin Americans are making their own history. Globalization, Weyland posits, still allows for considerable policy choice. Latin Americans do, however, influence one another: witness the remarkable diffusion of the bold Chilean pension privatization. As demands for social justice grow in Latin America, Weyland's formidable findings will take on particular urgency for both theorists and practitioners alike.