(Re)Politicization and Empowerment: Social policies under left-turn governments in the Southern Cone (2003-2015)

Ms. Melisa Ross

This paper presents a novel approach towards social policy regimes adopted by left-turn governments in the Southern Cone. These governments have in common a range of policy interventions oriented towards combating inequality -CCT, OLPC- and political exclusion -minority recognition, women empowerment-, which have surpassed traditional welfare state models and have hybridized social policy regimes. Recent scholarship has attempted original typologies that can better reflect Latin American historical and political specificities and the reforms implemented in the field during the region’s recent electoral wave towards the left.
The research presented in this paper, in turn, adopts the perspective of empowerment to identify (re)politicization strategies on social issues and public policy responses, which allows to identify how social programs and their inscription in public discourse have advanced in the definition of collective subjects, their incorporation through participatory mechanisms, and have thus fostered political mobilization and contestation.
The relevance of these categories for the study of social policies is discussed upon an empirical analysis of policy documentation and public discourse on social programs adopted by progressive governments in office in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay between 2003 and 2015. The methodological framework is provided by discourse analysis from a reconstructive perspective.
A transversal understanding of social policies as politics of empowerment adds to the ongoing debate on the characterization of social policy regimes under the Latin American left turn. It further connects to the necessary evaluation of their accomplishments and shortcomings in universalization and redistribution under the light of the recent conservative wave in the region.