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Neoliberalism in Latin America: Varieties, Similarities and Alternatives


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations.


Popular understandings of neoliberalism equate it with a market ethos involving competition and free trade. Others go beyond and associate with a specific form of normative political reason. How can we make sense of these divergent accounts? Is neoliberalism an ideology or an economic system? Does it involve a different governance regime or rather a new stage of capitalism? Can it be theorised as political rationality or a transformation of culture? Neoliberalism is a term that seems vaguely defined but remains hegemonic and ubiquitous. This course explores the role of economic policies and the re-structuring of socio-economic and political relations. It places particular emphasis on topics such as financial capitalism and flexible accumulation. Yet, adopting an interdisciplinary approach also engages with different accounts of neoliberalism that highlight individual subjectivities, including consumer citizen and entrepreneurial self-investor notions.
The course situates the analysis of neoliberalism in the Latin American region. It departs from the 1970s and the military regimes in Chile and Argentina to explore the dominance of neoliberalism in the 1980s and 1990s and the reliance on an “open economy” away from what was considered a nationalistic regulatory state. The conditions prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s, centred on state-led industrialisation, had seemingly disappeared. These developments are located in their global dimension: Thatcherism in England and the Reagan-Bush years. The debt crisis of the 1980s and the structural adjustment that followed in Latin America marked a radical departure, favouring market reforms that resulted in what came to be known as la década perdida (or the lost decade). Structural weaknesses prevailed throughout the 1990s and 2000s, albeit sustained economic growth. Dissatisfied with neoliberal reforms, many governments joined the ‘turn to the left’, following a renewed focus on addressing la deuda social (or social deficit). This ‘post-neoliberal’ turn raised expectations across the region, as governments seemed committed to reducing poverty, improving social infrastructure, and increasing public investment. The new raft of policies has been met with growing concerns amongst critical scholarship and civil society organisations about the continued dependence on raw materials, the challenges to sustain economic development and the social and economic exclusion of historically marginalised groups. All these essential questions and trajectories remain the object of debate, an aspect central to this course.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, students should be able to problematise the dichotomy between state and markets as rival institutions, understand the rationale behind the liberalisation of markets and finance, the flexibilisation and intensification of labour as its consequences, and the role of state institutions in intervening upon and through markets to expand and reproduce neoliberalism itself. Students will also build and apply critical thinking and nuanced and persuasive writing skills.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


Oral presentation(s) 10%
Assignment 1: research problem (3,000 words) 30%
Assignment 2: full research paper (5,000 words) 60%


To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following: the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Students can resit the assignments 1 and assignments 2 if the weighted average is unsatisfactory.

Reading list

Bértola, L., & Ocampo, J. A. (2012). The Economic Development of Latin America since Independence. OUP Oxford.
Brown, Wendy. Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution. New York: Zone Books, 2017.
Fine, B. and A. Saad-Filho (2017) ‘Thirteen Things You Need to Know About Neoliberalism’, Critical Sociology 43(4–5): 685–706.
Fischer, A. M. (2020) ‘The Dark Sides of Social Policy: From Neoliberalism to Resurgent Right-wing Populism’, Development and Change.
Grugel, J., & Riggirozzi, P. (2012). Post‐neoliberalism in Latin America: Rebuilding and reclaiming the State after crisis. Development and change, 43(1), 1-21.
Kay, C. (2010). Latin American theories of development and underdevelopment. London: Routledge.
Keen, B., & Haynes, K. (2013). A history of Latin America (Ninth ed): Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Molyneux, M. (2008) ‘The “Neoliberal Turn” and the New Social Policy in Latin America: How Neoliberal, How New?’, Development and Change 39(5): 775–97.
Saad-Filho, A. (2019) ‘Varieties of Neoliberalism in Brazil (2003–2019)’, Latin American Perspectives.
Schild, V. (2007) ‘Empowering “Consumer-citizens” or Governing Poor Female Subjects? The Institutionalization of “Self-development” in the Chilean Social Policy Field’, Journal of Consumer Culture 7(2): 179–203.
Silva, E. (2009). Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Silva, P. (2008). In the name of reason: Technocrats and politics in Chile. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Venugopal, R. (2015). Neoliberalism as concept. Economy and Society, 44(2), 165-187.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.