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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 or a 'small government'. Others go beyond and associate with a specific form of normative political reason that has transformed and not simply reduced the state. 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 synergies between neoliberalism, financialisation and public policy to create and reproduce social inequalities, othering, adverse inclusion and/or exclusion. Neoliberal policies have amplified the uneven concentration of economic resources along with patriarchy, colonialism and other forms of exploitation and extraction.

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. 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 about the continued dependence on raw materials and the social exclusion of historically marginalised groups in a new phase of authoritarian developmentalism. 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

‘Undoing the demos: neoliberalism's stealth revolution by Brown, W. (2015).

Fraser, N. (2017) ‘From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump and Beyond’, American Affairs 1(4

Grugel, J. and Riggirozzi, P. (2012) ‘Post-neoliberalism in Latin America: Rebuilding and Reclaiming the State after Crisis’, Development and change, 43(1), pp. 1–21.

Fischer, A.M. (2020) ‘The Dark Sides of Social Policy: From Neoliberalism to Resurgent Right-wing Populism’, Development and change, 51(2), pp. 371–397. Lewis, A., 1954. Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour. The Manchester School, 22(2): 139–191.

Fine, B. and Saad-Filho, A. (2017) ‘Thirteen Things You Need to Know About Neoliberalism’, Critical sociology, 43(4-5), pp. 685–706.

Ferguson, J. (2010) ‘The Uses of Neoliberalism’, Antipode, 41(s1), pp. 166–184.

Madra, Y.M. and Adaman, F. (2014) ‘Neoliberal Reason and Its Forms: De-Politicisation Through Economisation’, Antipode, 46(3), pp. 691–716.

The birth of biopolitics: lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-79 by Foucault (2008) Basingstoke [England]; New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan.

Why Not Default?: The Political Economy of Sovereign Debt by Roos, J.E. (2019)

Bértola, L. and Ocampo, J.A. (2012) The Economic Development of Latin America since Independence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Incorporated.

In the name of reason: technocrats and politics in Chile by Silva, P. (2008). University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Kiely, R. (2020) ‘Assessing Conservative Populism: A New Double Movement or Neoliberal Populism?’, Development and change, 51(2), pp. 398–417.

Torre, C. de la (2013) ‘Latin America’s Authoritarian Drift: Technocratic Populism in Ecuador’, Journal of democracy, 24(3), pp. 33–46.

Arsel, M., Adaman, F. and Saad-Filho, A. (2021) ‘Authoritarian developmentalism: The latest stage of neoliberalism?’, Geoforum, 124, pp. 261–266.

Bruff, I. and Tansel, C.B. (2019) ‘Authoritarian neoliberalism: trajectories of knowledge production and praxis’, Globalizations, 16(3), pp. 233–244.

Saad-Filho, A. (2020) ‘Varieties of Neoliberalism in Brazil (2003–2019)’, Latin American perspectives, 47(1), pp. 9–27.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


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

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


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