Social Inequality, Civil Society, and the Limits of Citizenship in Latin America

Susan Eva Eckstein and Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley

in What Justice? Whose Justice?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780520237445
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936980 | DOI:
Social Inequality, Civil Society, and the Limits of Citizenship in Latin America

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Ostensibly since the time of Aristotle, the theme of social inequality has posed a central problem for the theory and practice of democracy. Although political democracy may ultimately be undermined by socioeconomic inequality, a certain level of inequality is inevitable given the reality of modern democratic politics. This perpetual existence is upheld in a market economy. Latin America displays a direct correlation between the level of inequality and the resistance to equity-enhancing measures. Extreme socioeconomic inequality raises the stakes of distribution politics, making substantial reforms least likely in precisely those countries where they are most needed for maintaining democratic stability. The emergence of the liberal welfare state, with its appendix of citizenship, lay the socio-political foundations of modern capitalism, of which, social inequality is a part and parcel. It is this factor that is generally overlooked while debating social justice in Latin America, despite the resurgence of free-market capitalism.

Keywords: Aristotle; democratic politics; free-market capitalism; Latin America; equity; citizenship

Chapter.  11515 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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