South American welfare: can we still keep so cheerful?



The consumerist and predatory style of development has been strongly accentuated this last decade in South America where we are leaving the weaker indigenous people of the continent “out-of-the-game”, deprived of their culture. We interfere with their ways to make a living, we deny them the right to have a fulfilling future as they are being forced out of their environment – an environment that protected them and provided them everything they needed for the simple non-monetary life they used to have. In exchange for this they now receive limited betterments, which amount to a minimum monthly allowance to buy some few electronic gadgets. Last but not least, because of this development style, the natural infrastructure that nourishes all human societies and gives us life is seriously threatened since the resilience of our ecosystems, robust in its appearance – is in a great danger.

From a long term perspective, paradoxically we worry about our countries during the prosperous current growth period due to the active policies of progressive governments, which is still a blessing in comparison to the previous crises. Nonetheless, the governments are not investing any considerable amounts on widening human, technical, infrastructure and networking capacities for a sustainable development, even at the sub-continental level. Negative social consequences occur as a result of hampering the social and cultural capital of those weaker people. Thus, we welcome sympathetic foreign observers who could come down to Argentina to get informed and then help us to discuss on these matters, not only with authorities, but also with friendly progressive academics who do not realize the long-term damage we are inflicting on the people and on nature. South America nourishes the developed world and we now need your feedback.

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3 responses

  • Horacio Ariel Feinstein says:

    The usually tight relationship between socioeconomic development and environment, nowadays in South America is tenser than ever. The current situation in Bolivia offers a good example. A country in almost every period governed by a harsh oligarchy, this last decade -due to a strong sociopolitical movement led by campesinos- experienced significant institutional changes such as the declaration of a plurinational constitution and the appointment of a plurinational government. The latter, led by a peasant president and a sociologist vicepresident, is struggling against a formidable statu quo. Alvaro García Linera, the vicepresident, a bright intellectual who acts as the government ideologue, published last September 2012 a book where he strongly advocates for the construction of a road through a national park (TIPNIS) because of its significance to regional development of Eastern Bolivia, in spite of tenacious opposition by indigenous peoples and envIronmentalist ONG’s.

    On top of this, the political opposition is trying to capitalize on this social conflict allegating that -in contradiction with its own definition- the plurinational government doesn’t matter about (those) native peoples lives and cultures. On this behalf and from inside the political struggle Garcia Linera strikes on environmentalist NGO’s (easily coopted by the political opposition) and by the way with the protection of the environment which he claims to be a hypocritical foreign-led cause.

    There are diverse opinions supporting both sides but the political struggle excessively permeates the discussion which easily turned into reciprocal accusations while leaving each side more entrenched.

  • Horacio,

    I’m pretty glad to read a paper coming from Latin America.

    Sorry, but I think I couldn’t get the point of the paper. It seems to describe very particular situations that, being common in most countries of L.A., are not exactly a product of market action solely, i.e. the migration boom from country to cities was actually encouraged by the exporting substitution policies on the last century.
    Additionaly, I can’t understand if your aim is to develop an strong and dynamic middle-class industry, with multinational goals, or to develop local markets with respect to the local values and customs. Of course, I pretend your complaining showed in this paper is not neutral.

    To explain myself, I’m not making an apology of the market, which has lots of failures, but I want to understand precisely you claim and your proposal.

    Thank you,


  • Horacio Ariel Feinstein says:


    Thank you for your interest in my presentation and I do regret my points weren’t expressed sufficiently clear.

    Of course, you are right, most difficulties -some of which I mention in my paper- for sustainable development in SouthAmerica are not caused by and trascend well beyond markets. I referred quite extensively about markets because they were signalled at the background section of the Conference call for papers, as one of the major “missing points” in the “development dialogue” but in southern countries we can’t expect from markets any progressive roles since they are greatly dominated by oligopolistic players.

    Anyway, what I express about markets in my presentation is nothing but a (long) digression. My point, putting it in different terms, is that the special decade we are experiencing in South America, where by disobeying neoliberal economic dogmas we are acheiving economic growth whith the socioeconomic betterment of the usually-have-nots while the brotherhood of the peoples is a very present invocation, is not leading to a sustainable development path having the (South)American peoples cultures as the heads of this development process. Thus, we are loosing an unique opportunity, at the current critical moment of global capitalism, for deepening this american development into a more indigenous and sustainable way. A lot of people are mobilized by SouthAmerican political leaders, many resources are also mobilized but the compass doesn’t show a clear-cut and sound direction as where to head to.