Shifting Interest Regimes of the Working Classes in Latin America



The transition from state-led to marketizing economic models implemented throughout Latin America in the last two decades has restructured labor markets and induced fundamental changes in the world of work.1 The resultant dislocation has hit the lower classes particularly hard, as evinced by widening inequality and the stubbornness of poverty levels despite some renewed growth following the “lost decade” of stagnation in the 1980s. The transition has also profoundly altered the infrastructure of popularsector2 political representation, the institutions through which the working classes participate in politics and by which their interests are represented and intermediated. In a region in which the issue of popular representation has been historically problematic, the ability of the lower classes to find redress through the political system has risen to the top of the research agenda for many analysts, as indicated by a growing literature theorizing the “quality” of Latin American democracies. This line of inquiry requires an analysis of change within the institutions of popular representation, one that can provide a framework for assessing variation among new institutional configurations and contrast them with their predecessors.