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Latin America: Democratisation and Development (PO397)

After a decade of steady to tremendous growth and remarkable political stability, much of Latin America is back in the news for the wrong reasons. Venezuela is wracked by economic disaster and political strife. Monumental corruption scandals seem to have consumed the entirety of Brazil’s political class, halting the country’s striking rise. Mexico continues to struggle with increasing violence and public disenchantment with the fruits of democratisation. This module explores the roots of today’s political and economic situations, as well as the diversity among Latin American states. Why, despite tremendous resources and nearly two centuries of independence, have most Latin American states struggled to “catch up” in terms of economic development? What roles do historical, external, and political factors play? Once the land of military coups and now the provenance of “so-called democracy with adjectives,” how are these economic challenges related to the region’s historically unstable politics?

The class will employ intra-regional comparisons as well as comparison between Latin America and other world regions. It particularly focuses on the region’s inconsistent growth and high levels of inequality, as well as its uneven processes of democratization. Students will examine competing explanations for divergent levels of economic development, state capacity, and political party strength. The module will explore recent trends and contemporary events. Students will also develop greater in-depth understanding of particular countries in the region.