Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Debating social democracy

The Latin American research seminar is also up and running again as well. Last week I presented my chapter on differences within and between Left and Right in Latin America and its implications for education policy. I had an audience of around 6, which was heartening, although I had to explain my way through the project and the way I intended to do it. Not everyone had read the paper, but at least it was a good exercise in preparing and defending myself. I now have my annual review interview scheduled for 31 May, so this was an excellent time to think about potential questions and pitfalls that I might face later in the month.

Yesterday it was Francisco Panizza to present. His article, on the Frente Amplio's first year in government in Uruguay, was the topic for discussion. Again, I don't presume there were many who read the paper, so he spoke for half an hour before taking questions. Francisco had mentioned that the manifesto that the FA was elected on was rather vague in targets, giving Danilo Astori (the economy minister) free reign to develop it in a third way direction (rather than towards the more neo-liberal and radical end of the FA spectrum). What I didn't really understand was why his approach was not challenged by the other currents within the coalition. Furthermore, I was curious to know whether there was any drive to a set of 'hird generation' reforms in public services (as is happening in the UK) and after the 'second generation' market reforms. Francisco said no, the unions were in the way.

One other interesting comments from the discussion was Sara Motta's view that the 'moulding' of the present system in Uruguay was less social democratic than neo-liberal, since there didn't seem to be any corresponding efforts to make Uruguay's political system more democratic and citizen-inclusive. It was a fair point, since to what extent does the third way really engage the grassroots compared to other, more participatory versions of social democracy (this seems to be my oen insight into the subject, e.g. the PT or Evo Morales). Sara, of course, has just been studying the grassroots in Venezuela, so is naturally quite excited about what she sees as a 'juncture' in history there.

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