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Roberts 3

Social Inequalities Without

Class Cleavages in Latin America’s
Neoliberal Era*
Kenneth M. Roberts

Social inequalities have deepened in Latin America over the past several decades,
yet an erosion of class cleavages has occurred in the political arena. During the era
of import-substitution industrialization (ISI), “stratified” cleavage structures based
on class distinctions emerged in a subset of Latin American countries where party
systems were reconfigured by the rise of a mass-based, labor-mobilizing party.
These nations typically experienced more severe economic crises during the tran-
sition from ISI to neoliberalism than nations that retained elitist party systems with
“segmented,” cross-class cleavage structures. They also experienced greater politi-
cal upheaval, as neoliberal critical junctures produced an erosion of stratified cleav-
ages along their structural, organizational, and cultural dimensions in the
labor-mobilizing cases, while leaving the segmented cleavages of elitist systems
relatively unscathed. The Latin American experience differs from that of Europe,
where strong labor movements and labor-backed parties were associated with su-
perior economic performance during periods of economic adjustment. It also chal-
lenges Duverger’s notion of an organizational “contagion from the Left,” as the
dramatic weakening of labor movements and the shift away from mass-based party
organizations have caused party systems to converge on elitist organizational mod-
els during the neoliberal era.

O ver the past twenty years of political democratization, economic crisis,

and free market reforms, social inequalities have deepened across most of
Latin America, yet class cleavages have eroded in the political arena. Not ev-
ery social division can be organized as a political cleavage (Schattschneider 1960;
Lipset and Rokkan 1967), but the incongruence between the social “fault lines” of
Latin American societies and their institutionalized forms of political represen-
tation is unusually pronounced, and it appears to be growing. Class inequali-

Kenneth M. Roberts is associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University
of New Mexico. He is the author of Deepening Democracy? The Modern Left and Social Movements in Chile
and Peru (Stanford University Press). He is currently writing a book on the transformation of party systems in
Latin America’s neoliberal era.
Studies in Comparative International Development, Winter 2002, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 3-33.
4 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

ties are more extreme in Latin America than in any other region of the world,
yet class appears to have diminishing political value as an organizing prin-
ciple, a source of collective identity, and an axis of partisan competition.
The divorce between class structures and political organization is especially
perplexing, as political and economic liberalization have triggered forms of
indigenous mobilization that have politicized ethnic cleavages in a number of
Latin American countries (Yashar 1998), and they have facilitated the emer-
gence of class cleavages in post-communist societies in Eastern Europe (Mateju,
Rehakova, and Evans 1999; Evans and Whitefield 1999). Why, then, have po-
litical and economic liberalism not had a comparable politicizing effect on
class cleavages in Latin America? Why do profound social divisions fail to
achieve expression in representative institutions?
The assertion that the political saliency of class has diminished is hardly
novel, as it has been a standard motif in studies of West European politics for
quite some time (Clark and Lipset 1991; Pakulski and Waters 1996). European
scholarship has generally attributed the erosion of the capital-labor cleavage
to intergenerational social mobility and the universality of the welfare state,
which have combined to expand the ranks of the middle class, soften class
inequalities, and provide economic security for workers. The shrinking size
and embourgeoisement of the proletariat, along with the capacity of social de-
mocracy and neocorporatism to ameliorate class conflict, allowed a partial tran-
scendence of class politics and the incorporation of post-materialist issues onto
the political agenda (Inglehart 1984; van der Eijk et al. 1992). The de-empha-
sis of class by party institutions thus paralleled the diminished structural weight
of class in the determination of individual lifestyles, opportunities, and politi-
cal identities.
Recent scholarship has questioned the validity of this conventional wisdom
by demonstrating that class remains a politically salient divide in European
electoral behavior (Evans 1999). But even if class cleavages have eroded in
extra-electoral arenas in Europe, this is likely a response to socioeconomic
and political pressures in advanced industrial democracies that are different
from those in Latin America (Dalton 2000: 24). In the latter region, class poli-
tics have hardly been transcended; rather, they have been disarticulated by highly
disruptive patterns of socioeconomic transformation. Although social inequali-
ties have been exacerbated and economic insecurity is widespread, parties are
not cleaving the political arena along class lines. Instead, they have eschewed
class identities and pursued cross-class strategies of political representation.
Globalized market competition, the collapse of Marxism, and the growing struc-
tural diffuseness of class positions have discouraged the social construction of
collective actors and identities that could give political expression to class dis-
tinctions. Social changes have thus undermined the political organization of
the working class not through embourgeoisement but through the reimposition
of market discipline and the de-proletarianization or, more properly, the sub-
proletarianization of the workforce. Far from evolving toward egalitarian,
middle-class societies, Latin American nations are accentuating historic pat-
terns of disarticulated “classless inequality” that encourage the political sub-
ordination of popular sectors. 1
Roberts 5

In short, political competition in Latin America has been fundamentally al-

tered by the socioeconomic transformations wrought by the collapse of state-
led development models and the subsequent shift toward market liberalism.
Class-based forms of competition had emerged in some (but not all) Latin
American nations with the mobilization of labor movements and labor-backed
political parties during the era of import substitution industrialization (ISI).
These political organizations and forms of competition were undermined, how-
ever, when the ISI model collapsed under the weight of international debt and
economic inefficiency in the 1980s.2 Economic crises and market reforms pro-
duced a more fragmented social landscape, simultaneously exacerbating in-
equalities and inhibiting the political organization of workers. The result was
an accentuation of elite political domination exercised through diffuse, multi-
class forms of representation.
To explain the paradoxical coexistence of rigid social stratification and erod-
ing party system cleavage structures, I start with an analysis of deepening in-
equalities, then discuss the social, cultural, and organizational dimensions of
the cleavage concept. A basic distinction is made between “segmented” cleav-
ages that are constructed across class lines in the political arena and “strati-
fied” cleavages that are grounded in class constituencies or organizations. This
lays the groundwork for an overview of historical differences between party
systems in Western Europe and Latin America. Although scholars have long
discounted the impact of class distinctions on Latin American party systems, I
argue that stratified cleavages did emerge in a subset of nations (which I label
“labor-mobilizing” cases) where party systems were reconfigured by the rise
of a mass-based, union-backed populist or leftist party during the ISI era. Popu-
list movements in Latin America mobilized a more heterogeneous constitu-
ency than socialist parties in Europe, making class cleavages less pronounced,
but they nevertheless opened a schism between “popular” and elite political
tendencies that fundamentally realigned the axes of political competition. Al-
ternatively, where party systems were not reconfigured by a mass-based, la-
bor-mobilizing party, segmented cleavage structures predominated and partisan
competition retained a more elitist character.
Elitist and labor-mobilizing party systems had distinct organizational log-
ics, and they were differentially affected by the collapse of ISI in the 1980s
and the subsequent shift toward market liberalism. This shift represented much
more than a change in the mode of accumulation; it also constituted a “critical
juncture” in the political development of Latin American societies (see Collier
and Collier 1991). The “neoliberal” critical juncture, however, produced more
far-reaching political changes in nations with labor-mobilizing party systems,
which experienced the most severe economic crises and the sharpest electoral
discontinuities in the region. The horizontal organizational bonds and strati-
fied cleavage structures of these party systems were shredded by socioeco-
nomic dislocation, eventually causing them to converge on the more vertical
representational patterns of the elitist party systems, which were less threat-
ened by the shift in development models. Therefore, whereas the onset of mass
politics during the ISI era had produced greater variation in the forms of parti-
san competition and political representation in Latin America, the demise of
6 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

class politics in the neoliberal era sharply narrowed these differences. The new
socioeconomic and political landscape simultaneously accentuated social in-
equalities and attenuated class organization from below.
The analysis that follows explores the interaction between structural and
institutional change in contemporary Latin America. Some of the best recent
scholarship on Latin America has examined the influence of institutional de-
sign on party systems and political outcomes (Shugart and Carey 1992;
Mainwaring and Shugart 1997), but the impact of structural forces on institu-
tions themselves remains poorly understood. Representative institutions like
parties and labor unions are shaped and constrained by underlying forces of
socioeconomic change; where they mobilize support, how they articulate their
programmatic appeals, and how they organize their social constituencies are
all conditioned by structural factors. Over the past two decades, structural con-
ditions that facilitated the translation of class inequalities into class politics
during the ISI era have yielded to others that inhibit this translation. At the
same time, parties and political leaders have de-emphasized class in their ap-
peals for popular support. The interplay between structural change and politi-
cal agency has realigned party systems and political competition in much of
Latin America. If a new political era has dawned, as is argued here, it can only
be understood through an analysis of the structural underpinnings of political
agency and institutional change.

Economic Crisis, Structural Adjustment, and the Deepening of Social Inequalities

Even before the onset of the 1982 debt crisis, Latin America was recognized as
the most inequitable region in the world (Bulmer-Thomas 1996: 7). There is
little question that inequalities have deepened since 1982, although economists
debate whether this is attributable primarily to the economic crisis or to struc-
tural adjustment policies and free market reforms. Both factors can plausibly
be linked to the growth in inequality. The economic crisis of the 1980s caused
wage growth to lag behind the rate of inflation, and hyperinflationary cycles
were devastating to popular sectors that lacked the means to shield their in-
comes by purchasing durable assets, holding foreign currency, or locating capital
abroad. Likewise, the economic recessions that accompanied stabilization caused
wages and formal sector employment to drop, with many workers shifting toward
the generally low-paid and insecure informal sector of the economy. These basic
trends were reinforced by structural adjustment policies. Workers were often laid
off in response to trade liberalization, privatizations, and public sector cutbacks,
swelling the ranks of informal sectors. International competition helped to com-
press wages in tradable goods sectors, while cuts in government subsidies and
social programs caused prices to rise and consumption to fall. Meanwhile, skilled
workers and managers employed in internationally competitive sectors or mul-
tinational firms could gain from an opening to foreign trade and investment,
while business groups derived economic windfalls from cut-rate privatizations
of public enterprises and the natural monopolies they often enjoyed. 3
The distributive effects of these economic trends are transparent. Despite
the economic recovery of the 1990s, the average real industrial wage in Latin
Roberts 7

America in 1996 was five percent below that of 1980, while the average real
minimum wage fell by 30 percent between 1980 and 1997. Thirteen out of 18
Latin American countries suffered a decline in the real minimum wage over
this time period (International Labour Organization 1998: 43). Regionwide,
the Gini coefficient for inequality increased from just under .50 in 1982 to .56
in 1995; in comparison, the African coefficient was under .50, East and South
Asia had coefficients less than .35, and Europe had a coefficient of .25. The
income ratio of the richest quintile of the Latin American population to the
poorest quintile increased from less than 16:1 in 1982 to greater than 22:1 in
1995 (Inter-American Development Bank 1997: 41). Although the sharp in-
crease in inequality seemed to taper off in the 1990s, the economic recovery
that followed the “lost decade” of the 1980s did not yield the expected gains in
distribution; indeed, the Inter-American Development Bank acknowledged that
“relatively well-off groups of Latin American society appear to have benefit-
ted from the recovery of the 1990s somewhat more than the poorest classes”
(Inter-American Development Bank 1997: 18). Wages and job creation remained
stubbornly low in most of the region, while poverty levels were stubbornly
high; one-third of Latin Americans were below the poverty line in 1995, up
from one-quarter in 1982 (Inter-American Development Bank 1997: 17).
Given the growth of poverty and inequality over the past two decades, one
could reasonably expect a rejuvenation of class-based political conflict in con-
temporary Latin America. Indeed, research on Eastern Europe has suggested
that growing inequality helps to differentiate class interests and crystallize class
identities (Mateju, Rehakova, and Evans 1999). In Latin America, economic
austerity created a zero-sum (or, in some nations, a negative-sum) situation
that could easily aggravate class-based distributive conflict. Where the eco-
nomic crisis imposed disproportionate hardships on the lower classes and struc-
tural adjustment was perceived as benefitting the privileged, some sort of
lower-class political backlash might have been expected. Furthermore, eco-
nomic crisis coincided with a process of democratization that relaxed mili-
tary restrictions on lower-class political mobilization, opening new
channels for the articulation of economic demands and political dissent.
Nevertheless, the popular protests that greeted the initial adoption of many
austerity packages were rarely sustained, and in most countries they were
little more than temporary stumbling blocks on the headlong rush toward
market liberalism. More important for this study, resistance to neoliberalism
generally did not demarcate party systems along class lines. Instead, the eco-
nomic transition drove new wedges between different sectors of the lower
classes, marginalized and isolated its opponents, and diffused preexisting class
cleavages. As a result, an economic model that was originally associated with
repressive dictatorships in the Southern Cone came to be adopted and repro-
duced under democratic regimes, often with substantial electoral support among
lower-class voters. To understand why, however, it is first necessary to trace
the historical development—and underdevelopment—of class cleavages in Latin
American party systems so that we may better understand their contemporary
8 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

Party Systems and Cleavage Structures in Latin America: Historical Patterns

If a political party, by definition, represents a part of the body politic, a party

system is formed by the competitive interaction of its constituent units or parts.
A fundamental property of any party system is the basis on which these units
are divided. In other words, what is the axis (or axes) of political identifica-
tion, differentiation, and competition around which alternative parties orga-
nize? In the European experience, these axes of competition—the fault lines of
democratic party systems—are commonly referred to as cleavages. In the clas-
sic work of Lipset and Rokkan (1967), cleavages are understood to have socio-
logical origins; that is, they are grounded in social distinctions of class, ethnicity,
region, or religion. Building on Lipset and Rokkan, Bartolini and Mair (1990)
argue that for a political division to constitute a cleavage, it must differentiate
social groups, organize them for representation in the political arena, and gen-
erate a sense of collective identity or group solidarity. According to this three-
dimensional conceptualization, cleavages reflect durable structural,
organizational, and cultural differences that divide a given electorate. They are
not created in the political sphere alone, and they cannot be reduced to con-
flicts over policy or ideology. Likewise, they are not based on merely instru-
mental aggregations of individuals in pursuit of narrow self-interest. Instead,
they bind individuals who are similarly situated and belong to associational
networks that represent common interests and identities. The stronger these
three dimensions of cleavage, the greater the degree of political encapsulation
or closure that binds individuals to any given party.
Few Latin America party systems have ever lived up to such exacting, three-
dimensional cleavage standards. In particular, the cleavage structures of most
Latin American party systems have had shallower roots in sociological dis-
tinctions of class and ethnicity. As pointed out by Dix (1989), most political
parties in Latin America draw support from a heterogeneous cross-section of
society. Many do little to differentiate social groups, organize them for politi-
cal expression, and articulate their collective identities. These characteristics,
however, are hardly exclusive to Latin America. Canada and the U.S. also failed
to develop strong class cleavages (Alford 1967), and Dix (1989: 33) suggests
that multi-class party organizations are the norm in developing countries. Even
in Europe, the depth of class cleavages has varied both across time and cross-
sectionally, as class politics have often been diffused by ethnic, religious, and
national conflicts (Bartolini 2000). Labor-backed parties have always had to
attract support beyond the working class if they wanted to be electorally com-
petitive, and their status as labor parties may rest more on their organizational
bonds than their electoral constituencies. Ireland and southern European coun-
tries have had poorly developed class cleavages in comparison to Great Britain
and the Scandinavian states, and there is some evidence of cleavage erosion
over time (Nieuwbeerta and de Graaf 1999). Consequently, there has been con-
siderable debate about the relevance of the classic social cleavage model even
for the European party systems that inspired it (Inglehart 1984; Franklin,
Mackie, and Valen 1992). As stated by Pennings and Lane (1998: 13), “Given
the diversity, degree and frequency of gradual and radical party system change
Roberts 9

. . . the cleavage approach, in its traditional form, is no longer a fruitful ex-

planatory device” (emphasis in the original).
Does this mean that the cleavage concept should be jettisoned or delimited
to the study of select European party systems prior to the onset of post-indus-
trial politics? Such responses would be overly restrictive, as they severely limit
the comparative utility of the cleavage concept. All competitive party systems
divide or “cleave” the electorate; that is, they aggregate some individuals ac-
cording to their political loyalties or preferences and differentiate them from
others. In some cases these cleavages are grounded in sociological distinc-
tions, whereas in others they are constructed in the political arena through the
competitive interaction of alternative party organizations, programs, or
leaderships without reference to preexisting social divisions.4 Likewise, some
cleavages are highly durable, encapsulating blocs of voters within relatively
closed and densely organized political camps, whereas others are fluid, con-
tingent, and uninstitutionalized, forming and dissolving around specific con-
junctures in electoral or policy-making cycles. Both the basis and the durability
of cleavage structures should thus be treated as theoretically significant vari-
ables rather than definitional properties. There is nothing intrinsic to the cleav-
age concept that requires it to be restricted to divisions grounded in sociological
distinctions, and the comparative study of party systems would benefit immea-
surably from a generic term that subsumes both socially and politically based
axes of competition with varying degrees of durability and organizational clo-
In short, rather than deny the existence of a cleavage structure in party sys-
tems that are not grounded in social distinctions, it seems more fruitful to dif-
ferentiate between types of cleavage structures. A party system in which the
axis of competition cuts horizontally, dividing society between different social
classes or strata, may be said to have a stratified cleavage structure. In con-
trast, a party system in which the axis of competition cuts vertically across
class lines is characterized by a segmented cleavage structure.5 Segmented
cleavages may be grounded in social or cultural distinctions of ethnicity, re-
gion, or religion, as in a number of European nations where sociological divi-
sions other than class have been politically salient. However, segmented
cleavages may also be divorced from social or cultural moorings; that is, they
may reflect a purely political and organizational divide between parties whose
social constituencies are multi-class, heterogeneous, and largely indistin-
guishable from each other. In this latter pattern, parties do not mobilize
supporters on the basis of social distinctions, yet they structure electoral
competition by generating organizational identities, articulating alterna-
tive policy agendas, and/or constructing rival patronage networks. These po-
litical schisms may develop the organizational and even cultural (in terms of
collective identities) dimensions of a cleavage despite their autonomy from
structural divisions.
Latin American party systems have a long tradition of segmented cleavage
structures, especially in the period before the onset of mass political mobiliza-
tion in the 20th century. Following independence, 19th century political par-
ties represented different factions of the landed and commercial oligarchy, and
10 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

electoral competition reflected intra-elite divisions over church-state relations,

the centralization of political authority, and the extent of trade openness. These
segmented, preindustrial cleavages did not pit social classes against one an-
other or trigger widespread political mobilization by subaltern groups.
The political matrix began to change at the turn of the century, however, as
economic modernization created a more diversified social structure and eroded
the foundations of oligarchic regimes. The Radical parties of the Southern Cone
articulated middle class demands for political inclusion, while the gradual ex-
pansion and organization of blue collar workers enabled labor unions to be-
come significant political actors. The rise of the proletariat signaled the dawning
of a new era of mass politics; although oligarchic patterns proved remarkably
resilient in some countries, the political arena had ceased to be the private
domain of traditional elites. The process by which labor movements were mo-
bilized, repressed, or incorporated politically differentiated the Latin Ameri-
can experience from that of Europe and created divergent development
trajectories within the Latin American region (Collier and Collier 1991).
Whereas the rise of the European working class spawned leftist parties that
helped to “standardize” party systems (Bartolini 2000: 10), labor mobilization
in Latin America generated party system diversification, as explained below.
Given the rigid social hierarchies and elitist political traditions of Latin
American societies, the political mobilization of labor was bound to generate
intense class conflict. Indeed, labor’s political incorporation was resisted ev-
erywhere and aborted or reversed in much of the region, with authoritarian
repression serving to enforce political exclusion. In several respects, then, Latin
America had social and political conditions that were conducive to the devel-
opment of strong class cleavages.6 Racial and ethnic discrimination reinforced
class distinctions and limited social mobility, educational opportunities were
biased by class, extra-market forms of labor control were prevalent in the coun-
tryside, and employment was scarce in industrial enterprises that relied upon
labor-saving technologies imported from developed nations. Likewise, effec-
tive articulation of workers’ economic demands was contingent on the con-
quest of political rights, and economic claims often subjected workers to
political repression. Nevertheless, class conflicts did not congeal and find ex-
pression in party institutions to the extent that they did in Europe, and partisan
competition was thus less stratified. Although pro- and anti-labor parties
emerged in many countries, they were rarely organized along strict class lines,
leaving cleavage structures more fluid, segmented, and detached from social
moorings than those found in Europe.
Indeed, class cleavages in Latin America were relatively weak along all three
of the cleavage dimensions outlined earlier. Structurally, class cleavages were
weakened by the small size of the industrial proletariat and the functional dif-
ferentiation of the urban and rural lower classes or “popular sectors” in gen-
eral (Dix 1989: 31-33). In Europe the secondary sector typically accounted for
30-40 percent of the workforce in the 20th century, but in Latin America it
peaked at only 20 percent in 1960 (Merkx 1991: 159-161). Latin American
societies thus lacked the dense concentrations of industrial workers that facili-
tated class organization in Europe; indeed, the number of workers in the sec-
Roberts 11

ondary sector was far smaller than that in the tertiary sector, where white col-
lar employees and the urban sub-proletariat shared few interests or identities
in common, making class organization exceedingly difficult.7 This structural
heterogeneity meant that subaltern groups engaged in a wide variety of eco-
nomic activities with highly differentiated relationships to private capital, thus
diffusing the centrality of the capital-labor cleavage.
Patterns of organization within the Latin American proletariat reflected these
structural conditions, and similarly softened class cleavages. Given the rela-
tively small size of the industrial proletariat, trade union density fell far short
of the levels achieved in Western Europe: whereas an average of 41.5 percent
of the total labor force was organized in trade unions in 14 European countries
between 1965 and 1980, only Argentina achieved that level of organization in
Latin America, and the regional average was less than 20 percent in the early
1980s when the debt crisis hit with devastating effects.8 In short, workers in
Latin America were far less encapsulated within class organizations to defend
their political and economic interests, and labor movements alone were an in-
adequate social base for effective electoral competition. Przeworski (1985: 23-
29) has argued that working-class parties in Europe were driven to appeal to
middle-class groups in order to expand their base of electoral support, since
the proletariat alone did not constitute an electoral majority. If this “electoral
dilemma” plagued European socialist parties in highly industrialized societ-
ies, it was even more pronounced in Latin America, where the proletariat was
far smaller and less cohesively organized. Consequently, as labor movements
developed in Latin America, in most cases their members either voted for tra-
ditional parties of the elite—thus broadening the base of oligarchic parties, as
in Colombia and Uruguay, and sustaining segmented cleavage structures—or
they became core supporters of new parties that organized heterogeneous popu-
lar sectors across class lines. This latter pattern, better known as populism,
was a Latin American counterpart to the evolution of European social democ-
racy from class-based to catch-all forms of sociopolitical organization
(Kirchheimer 1966).
Finally, class cleavages were weakly expressed at the cultural level as well.
In contrast to Europe, Marxism in Latin America remained primarily an intel-
lectual discourse. By the middle of the 20th century, Marxism had not sunk
deep roots into the lower class political culture or become a major source of
class-based collective identity outside of Chile (Moulian 1982). Elsewhere,
workers followed one of two basic paths: they remained wedded to oligarchic
parties that promoted a hierarchical but paternalistic view of social relation-
ships, thus denying the existence of class conflict and the need for class soli-
darity, or they joined diverse populist coalitions that subsumed class identities
within broader, anti-oligarchic struggles.
Along all three dimensions, then, cleavage structures were less clearly de-
marcated by class divisions in Latin America than in Europe. Nevertheless,
class themes were hardly absent from political conflict and social mobiliza-
tion. Stratified cleavages did emerge in Chile and Argentina, and by the 1970s
and 1980s in Peru and Nicaragua as well. And although populist coalitions
often incorporated sectors of the middle class and nationally oriented business
12 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

interests, they made special political and economic appeals to mobilize labor
support, established formal institutional ties to national labor (and sometimes
peasant) confederations, and often strongly articulated a political discourse
that pitted “national” and “popular” (i.e., lower and working class) interests
against traditional elites and their foreign allies (Laclau 1977; de la Torre 1992).
In its most ideal-typical expressions, such as Peronism in Argentina, populism
was capable of generating sharp class distinctions in voting behavior and col-
lective political and cultural identities (Mora y Araujo and Llorente 1980;
Ostiguy 1998). Therefore, although populism did not generate strict class cleav-
ages along all three dimensions outlined earlier, it often created stratified fault
lines that differentiated elite from mass orientations in political identities, or-
ganizational affiliations, and electoral behavior.
These stratified cleavages, however, only developed in a meaningful way in
a subset of Latin American nations. In these nations—namely Argentina, Bo-
livia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and, at a later stage, Nicara-
gua—party systems were reconfigured by the rise of a mass-based,
labor-mobilizing populist or leftist party (or parties) during the ISI era.9 These
parties transformed the logic of political representation by organizing subal-
tern groups, challenging elitist patterns of social and political control, and po-
larizing the political arena between critics and defenders of the status quo. In
these labor-mobilizing party systems, cleavage structures were increasingly
grounded in a central conflict between a reformist, popular-based party and its
generally (but not exclusively) conservative and elite-based opponents. Labor-
mobilizing parties typically developed stronger base-level organizational struc-
tures than traditional parties, and they inserted party cadres into labor unions
and other civic associations in an effort to activate and organize civil society.
They were thus more likely to encapsulate voters within mass-based party,
labor, and peasant organizations, although populist parties varied widely in
their levels of organizational institutionalization.10 In these nations, therefore,
the rise of mass politics spawned the emergence of new collective actors, ide-
ologies, and mobilizing strategies.
Although populist leaders aimed their appeal at a multi-class national audi-
ence, 11 organized labor was a core constituency of many populist and leftist
parties. When excluded from power these parties mobilized labor unions to
challenge incumbent elites, and when given access to public office their cor-
poratist practices awarded organizational and material benefits to labor allies
in exchange for political control. Populist and leftist parties differed in the
extent of their ideological emphasis on class and the breadth of their social
coalitions, but both types of parties elicited hostility from traditional elites as
a result of their reformist policies and mobilization of working and lower-class
groups. Nations with a major labor-mobilizing party thus developed at least
some semblance of a stratified cleavage structure that eclipsed or partially dis-
placed traditional segmented divisions.
Alternatively, in nations that did not experience the rise of a major labor-
mobilizing party during the ISI era, elite-based forms of political competition
continued following the onset of mass politics, and segmented cleavages that
cut across class distinctions predominated. In Colombia, Uruguay, Honduras,
Roberts 13

and Paraguay traditional parties with roots in 19th century oligarchic divisions
remained electorally dominant, winning votes from workers without engag-
ing in extensive mobilization of the working class (which could have threat-
ened their core elite constituencies). In Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, and
the Dominican Republic, traditional oligarchic parties entered into demise,
but they were displaced by new elite or middle-class-based parties or per-
sonalistic leaders who provided little stimulus to labor mobilization. 12
Institutional fragilities left these nations susceptible to the rise of person-
alistic leaders with broad popular appeal—such as José María Velasco
Ibarra in Ecuador, Rafael Calderón in Costa Rica, Arnulfo Arias in Panama,
and Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic—but their organizational
achievements in the labor sphere fell far short of those attained by populist
movements in the labor-mobilizing cases. In all these nations with elitist party
systems, the axis of political competition during the ISI era turned on a rivalry
between elite-based, multi-class parties or personalistic movements that were
poorly differentiated in their social composition. Parties were bound to lower-
class constituencies by vertical patron-client networks, but they usually did
not encapsulate voters within large-scale, grassroots party or secondary asso-
ciations. As such, electoral competition was more segmented than stratified,
reflecting divisions between rival, cross-class patronage networks rather than
distinct classes or strata.
These elitist party systems were riddled with oligarchic and patrimonial
political tendencies, and they had weak cleavage structures in terms of the
three-dimensional framework outlined earlier. At the cultural level, patronage
networks and family or community socialization practices could lead individuals
to develop stable party-mediated collective identities, particularly in nations
where traditional oligarchic parties survived. Ideology, however, played little
role in these collective identities, and it was not used as a source of political
differentiation or mobilization. At the organizational level, the encapsulation
of voters was limited, as parties were often cliques of notables that were poorly
organized at the grassroots level, were rarely activated outside electoral cycles,
and provided scant opportunities for mass participation.13 The parties defined
electoral alternatives, but they did little to organize civil society. Finally, at the
structural level, partisan identities were poorly differentiated by social or cul-
tural attributes such as class, ethnicity, religion, or region. Cleavages were
segmented in character and constructed at the political level; that is, party ad-
herents were differentiated by their affiliation with personal or organizational
patronage networks rather than their membership in distinctive social groups.
As such, political competition was “ungrounded” or divorced from broader
patterns of social stratification.
Labor movements were significantly weaker in these nations than in those
where a major labor-mobilizing party developed. In Colombia and Uruguay,
labor was incorporated politically—but not extensively mobilized—by “pro-
gressive” factions of oligarchic parties (Collier and Collier 1991). This helped
to moderate labor’s political orientation and broaden the base of traditional
parties without fundamentally altering the logic of political competition. In
Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Honduras, Paraguay, and the Dominican Re-
14 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

public, labor movements faced a combination of political repression and co-

optation that prevented them from developing into major actors on the national
political stage. Efforts by conservative parties or personalist leaders to co-opt
labor support weakened populist and leftist parties and fragmented union move-
ments. In none of these nations did a new mass-based, labor-mobilizing party
develop in the ISI era.14
This organizational weakness and fragmentation can be measured along two
dimensions that are stressed in the comparative study of labor movement po-
litical influence: the level of trade union density (i.e., the percentage of the
total workforce belonging to trade unions) and the degree of organizational
concentration (i.e., the percentage of organized workers who belong to the
largest national confederation). The first indicator attests to the representa-
tiveness of the union movement and the scope of its organizational encapsula-
tion, while the second measures its political coherence and capacity for unified
political action (Golden 1993; Mitchell 1996). As seen in Table 1, peak levels of
trade union density averaged 31.9 percent in the labor-mobilizing cases. This was
well below the European average of 41.5 percent,15 but it was more than double
the level in Latin American countries that retained elitist party systems (an average
of only 13.9 percent). Clearly, far more workers were organized in countries where
populist or leftist parties mobilized labor as a core constituency. Likewise, the
organizational concentration of the union movement was generally higher in the
labor-mobilizing cases, demonstrating a greater level of political cohesion. Five of
the eight labor-mobilizing cases achieved the highest score on the trade union
concentration index (indicating that over 70 percent of unionized workers be-
longed to the main national labor confederation), and only one case (Brazil)
acquired the lowest score (suggesting that less than 40 percent of unionized
workers belonged to the largest confederation) . By contrast, only one country
(Uruguay) with an elitist party system attained the highest score on the index
of concentration, while six obtained the lowest score, attesting to the fragmen-
tation of union movements where vigorous partisan leadership was lacking.
The differences between elitist and labor-mobilizing cases go well beyond
their cleavage structures and organizational patterns, however. These party
system attributes, in fact, were elements of broader syndromes that have marked
national development trajectories in the 20th century, linking together eco-
nomic development models and patterns of state-society interaction. As ex-
plained later, countries with labor-mobilizing party systems typically adopted
highly statist development models and suffered severe economic and political
crises during the transition to neoliberalism. Their cleavage structures and or-
ganizational models were thus buffeted by wrenching socioeconomic changes.
This transition eroded class cleavages and narrowed the differences between
elitist and labor-mobilizing party systems, as representational patterns increas-
ingly converged on the elitist mode.

Party Systems in the Transition from ISI to Neoliberalism

The development of strong labor movements and labor-mobilizing parties did

not occur in isolation. In some cases these representative institutions devel-
Roberts 15

Table 1
Indicators of Union Strength in Elitist and Labor-Mobilizing Party Systems
Elitist Party Peak Trade Index of Labor- Peak Trade Index of
Systems Union Union Mobilizing Union Union
Density Concentration Party Systems Density Concentration
Colombia 9.2 1 Argentina 50.1 3
Costa Rica 15.4 1 Bolivia 24.8 3
Dominican Republic 17.0 1 Brazil 24.3 1
Ecuador 13.5 2 Chile 35.0 2
Honduras 8.5 1 Mexico 32.1 3
Panama 17.0 1 Nicaragua 37.3 2
Paraguay 9.9 1 Peru 25.0 3
Uruguay 20.9 3 Venezuela 26.4 3
Mean 13.9*** 1.4** Mean 31.9*** 2.5**

Note: Two-sample t test of the difference in means, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. Peak trade union
density is the best estimate of the percentage of the total labor force that was unionized at the peak
of labor mobilization between 1970 and 1995. Union concentration is an index for the estimated
percentage of organized workers who were members of unions that belonged to the largest national
labor confederation at the end of the ISI era in the 1980s (or during the 1990s for nations that were
under military rule for most of the 1980s). The index gives a score of 1 where the largest confedera-
tion incorporated less than 40% of the unionized labor force, 2 where it incorporated between 40
and 70%, and 3 where it incorporated more than 70%.
Sources: See Appendix A.

oped alongside ambitious ISI experiments, as in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and

Mexico, which became regional leaders in the process of industrialization. Latin
America’s largest nations belonged to this category, as their sizable domestic
markets allowed them to pursue aggressive inward-oriented ISI models. Strong
labor movements and deeper ISI experiments were mutually reinforcing: ISI
created a concentrated industrial labor force that was amenable to political
organization, while strong labor unions provided an organized mass constitu-
ency to support ISI policies. In other nations labor-mobilizing party systems
emerged despite more moderate ISI experiments, as labor movements were
strengthened either by the existence of large-scale extractive industries (Bo-
livia, Peru, and Venezuela),16 periods of leftist or revolutionary government
(Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Peru), or both. All eight of these nations eventually
developed extensive forms of state intervention in the economy, including public
ownership of major firms, the promotion or protection of domestic industries,
and the regulation of capital, labor, and consumer markets. This intervention
made the state the focal point of social demands, and often encouraged the
construction of corporatist mechanisms to channel political and material ben-
efits to labor unions in exchange for their political subordination.
In contrast, countries with elitist party systems were generally character-
ized by less profound ISI experiments and more restrained state intervention
during the ISI era, although Uruguay adopted highly protectionist trade poli-
cies and, along with Costa Rica, developed a relatively strong (by regional
standards) welfare state. Policy moderation undoubtedly reflected the com-
16 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

mitment to economic liberalism of politically dominant traditional elites, but

it was also attributable to the small size of the domestic markets needed to
sustain ISI policies in most of these countries. The combination of economic
liberalism, stunted industrialization, and elite political control limited the de-
velopment of trade unions and state corporatist modes of interest intermedia-
tion. Some of these differences are captured in Table 2, which provides evidence
for both the higher level of industrialization in the labor-mobilizing cases and
their greater reliance on public investment in the process of development.
More important, the impact of the collapse of the ISI model in the 1980s
and the subsequent shift toward neoliberalism varied dramatically across these
different types of party systems. Simply put, the fundamental change in devel-
opment models posed a greater political and economic shock to the countries
with labor mobilizing party systems. These countries encountered fierce dis-
tributive conflicts between capital and labor as the “easy phase” of ISI became
exhausted in the 1960s and 1970s, and the tensions between capital accumula-
tion and political legitimation created severe economic disequilibria that un-
dermined the “deepening” of industrialization (O’Donnell 1973). Starting with
the Chilean military coup in 1973, and accelerating in the aftermath of the
regionwide debt crisis that began in 1982, ISI deepening strategies yielded to a
new version of market liberalism that blamed state interventionism for Latin
America’s problems and extolled the virtues of privatization, free trade, and
unfettered markets. This structural adjustment required more radical change
where ISI and what Cavarozzi (1994) calls the “state-centric matrix” were most

Table 2
Party Systems, Industrial Development, and Public Investment in Latin America

Elitist Party Manufacturing Public Labor- Manufacturing Public

Systems Share of GDP Enterprise Mobilizing Share of Enterprise
(Peak Score Share of Party GDP Share of
1970-1980) Gross Fixed Systems (Peak Score Gross Fixed
Capital 1970-1980) Capital
Formation Formation
(Peak Score (Peak Score
1970-1980) 1970-1980)

Colombia 19.0 10.3 Argentina 28.0 20.7

Costa Rica 22.2 19.6 Bolivia 15.9 40.9
Dominican Republic 18.5 12.2 Brazil 28.7 22.8
Ecuador 20.2 NA Chile 25.0 20.0
Honduras 17.0 14.6 Mexico 29.9 29.4
Panama 17.2 27.7 Nicaragua 24.3 NA
Paraguay 17.5 14.5 Peru 25.6 22.1
Uruguay 24.0 18.3 Venezuela 17.7 36.3
Mean 19.5* 16.7** Mean 24.4* 27.5**

Note: Two-sample t test of the difference in means, * p < .05, ** p < .01.
Sources: For manufacturing share of GDP, Inter-American Development Bank (1981: 26). For
public enterprise share of gross fixed capital formation, Short (1984: 118-122).
Roberts 17

deeply implanted: austerity packages were imposed, public services and enter-
prises were slashed or privatized, capital and labor markets were deregulated,
and trade restrictions were lifted. Corporatist linkages between unions, par-
ties, and states inevitably frayed, and workers were increasingly subjected to
the discipline of the marketplace.
As seen in Table 3, the economic crisis associated with the collapse of ISI
and the shift toward market liberalism was far more acute in nations with la-
bor-mobilizing party systems. All of the countries that experienced hyperin-
flation during this transition—Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and
Nicaragua—fall in the labor-mobilizing camp. Collectively, the average peak
inflation rate in the eight labor-mobilizing cases was a staggering 5035.3, com-
pared to 56.2 in countries with elitist party systems. The two countries with
labor-mobilizing party systems that avoided a hyperinflationary cycle of at
least 500 percent, Mexico and Venezuela, had close ties between their central
labor confederation and the dominant party. Their governments used a combi-
nation of price controls and wage agreements with docile unions to contain
inflationary pressures, but in the process they undermined support for their
national confederations and pushed much of the burden of economic adjust-
ment onto the backs of workers. As seen in the table, Mexico and Venezuela
had the second and fourth steepest declines in real minimum wages, respec-
tively, over the past two decades in Latin America.
Equally striking, of the 58 annual inflation rates of greater than 100 that the
region has witnessed since 1970, 56 were recorded in nations with labor-mobi-
lizing party systems. Given their proclivity for severe inflation, the costs of
economic stabilization were also greater in these nations. Every Latin Ameri-
can country except Colombia had at least one year of negative GDP growth
between 1980 and 1998, but the contractions were deeper in the labor-mobiliz-
ing cases. 17 Table 3 lists the deepest single year or consecutive multi-year eco-
nomic contraction experienced by each country since 1980; the average
contraction for elitist cases was 7.2 percent, while the average for labor-mobi-
lizing cases was 12.3 percent. Likewise, the decline in the real minimum wage
over this time period averaged 45.4 percent in the labor-mobilizing cases and
12.1 percent in the elitist cases. Although it is beyond the scope of this article
to explain the causal dynamics of economic crisis, it is clear that the combina-
tion of profound ISI and/or socialist development experiments and acute dis-
tributive conflicts between elite and well-organized lower-class constituencies
produced severe economic disequilibria in the labor-mobilizing cases, which
in turn led to some of the deepest, swiftest, and most traumatic structural ad-
justments in the region.
These contrasts in the severity of economic crises are notably different from
the experience in Western Europe, where corporatist institutions and politi-
cally powerful labor movements were associated with superior economic per-
formance during the period of adjustment in the 1970s and 1980s (Cameron
1984; Garrett 1998). The European model of a party-mediated, social demo-
cratic class compromise has no parallels in the recent Latin American experi-
ence. Latin American patterns diverge from those in Europe on the political
front as well; whereas dense trade union organizations in Europe historically
18 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

Table 3
Party Systems, Economic Adjustment, and Electoral Volatility
Type of Party Peak Years with Worst 1997 Index Electoral
System Inflation Inflation > 100 Economic of Real Volatility
(1970-1998) (1970-1998) Contraction, Minimum 1980-1998
1980-1998 Wage (Average
(+ = multi-year) (1980 = 100) Pedersen
Colombia 30.4 0 .9 103.8 12.0
Costa Rica 90.1 0 -9.6+ 135.0 10.3
Dominican Republic. 59.4 0 -5.7 78.0++ 19.5
Ecuador 75.6 0 -6.0 50.5 33.5
Honduras 29.5 0 -2.2+ 78.3 7.1
Panama 16.8 0 -15.0+ 110.0 39.5
Paraguay 38.2 0 -4.0+ 107.0 20.4
Uruguay 112.5 2 -16.0+ 40.8 12.2
Mean 56.2*** .25** -7.2 87.9* 19.3*

Argentina 3079.8 16 -11.2+ 78.0 18.7
Bolivia 11,748.3 5 -10.9+ 32.2 27.5
Brazil 2937.8 13 -4.4 73.2 30.7
Chile 508 5 -14.7+ 102.3 15.3
Mexico 131.8 3 -6.2 30.1 18.1
Nicaragua 14,295.3 7 -19.8+ NA 49.5
Peru 7481.5 7 -23.4+ 26.7 47.3
Venezuela 99.9 0 -7.8 39.9 31.5
Mean 5035.3*** 7.0** -12.3 54.6* 29.8*

++The Dominican Republic’s wage index score is for 1996.

Note: Two-sample t test of the difference in means, * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. The log of
the peak inflation rate was used to prevent extreme scores from skewing the sample.
Sources: For inflation and economic growth, Inter-American Development Bank, Economic and
Social Progress in Latin America, various issues. For minimum wage index, International Labour
Organization (1998: 43). For electoral volatility, author’s calculations based on data provided by
Nohlen (1993), the Europa World Handbook, and the “Elections Around the World” website. The
scores on the Pedersen index are the composite average of each nation’s legislative and presidential
volatility scores.

reduced electoral volatility by demarcating class cleavages and encapsulating

voters (Bartolini and Mair 1990), in Latin America labor-mobilizing party
systems have experienced greater electoral volatility in recent decades. 18
As seen in Table 3, the most electorally stable party systems in Latin
America have been those that eschew the organization of class cleavages,
and are instead grounded in intra-elite schisms (especially those with roots in
the 19th century). Elitist systems on average score ten points below the labor-
mobilizing systems on the Pedersen index of volatility,19 indicating that class
Roberts 19

organization has not generated electorally stable class cleavages in Latin

This electoral volatility undoubtedly reflects the political costs of acute eco-
nomic crises in the labor-mobilizing cases. It may also be indicative, however,
of the erosion of the stratified cleavage structures that existed in these nations
during the ISI era, as volatility can result from shifts in the fault lines of parti-
san competition. In comparison, the cleavage patterns of elitist party systems
were left relatively unscathed by two decades of economic crisis and reform,
suggesting that neoliberal critical junctures did not affect all countries equally.
The new era of market liberalism not only required less severe economic ad-
justments in the elitist cases, but it also entailed less traumatic change in their
patterns of political organization. Market reforms might limit the availability
of state resources used to fuel the patron-client networks of elitist party sys-
tems, but they pose little threat to their segmented organizational logic. With
their vertical, cross-class method of organization founded on individualistic
material or political exchanges, clientelistic forms of political representation
are highly compatible with economic liberalism, and they may well have an
elective affinity for it. There is ample evidence to suggest that patron-clientelism
has survived, and even thrived, in the atomized social landscape of the neoliberal
era (Roberts 1995), and many parties that used to organize class and corporat-
ist groups on a horizontal basis have shifted increasingly to a reliance on
clientelistic practices (Dresser 1991; Gibson 1997; Levitsky 1998a). As such,
the central cleavages of many elitist party systems have remained intact over
the past twenty years, and even where elitist party systems have been electorally
volatile, there has been little change in their organizational logic.
In contrast, neoliberal critical junctures produced sharp discontinuities in
the labor-mobilizing systems. More than a simple epiphenomenon of economic
crisis, this discontinuity reflects the collapse of a mode of political organiza-
tion and representation that was deeply embedded in the previous develop-
ment model and is increasingly out of sync with the socioeconomic landscape
carved out by the process of free-market reforms. The stratified (or at least
semi-stratified) cleavage structures and corporatist organizational practices of
labor-mobilizing systems have been undermined by the individualizing logic
of the neoliberal era, eroding class cleavages along all three of their core di-
mensions. This erosion is detailed below through a comparative analysis of
three paradigmatic cases where the structural, organizational, and cultural di-
mensions of class cleavages were especially well-defined prior to the adoption
of neoliberal reforms—Chile, Argentina, and Peru. These cases allow an ex-
amination of cleavage erosion under both populist and leftist variants of labor-
mobilization: Peru’s APRA and Argentina’s Peronists were major populist
parties, while Chile’s Socialist and Communist parties and Peru’s United Left
coalition were prominent on the Left. Likewise, cleavage erosion can be traced
where both populist and leftist parties decompose during a neoliberal critical
juncture (Peru’s APRA and United Left) and where both types of parties adapt
to new conditions (Argentina’s Peronists and Chile’s Socialists). The compara-
tive analysis explores the development of the three cleavage dimensions dur-
ing the ISI era, then explains their erosion during the transition to neoliberalism.
20 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

The Erosion of Class Cleavages in the Neoliberal Era

Argentina, Chile, and Peru demonstrate that all three dimensions of a class
cleavage can develop in Latin America when favorable structural conditions
(i.e., a critical mass of industrial and/or mining workers) are matched with
effective political agency (populist or leftist leaders with a commitment to
grassroots organization). With respect to the organizational dimension, strong
populist or leftist parties and formidable labor movements emerged in all three
nations during the ISI era. Benefitting from early industrialization, extensive
European immigration, and a shortage of labor, Argentina’s union movement
was considered the strongest in Latin America even before the rise of Peronism
in the 1940s. Under the influence of Peronism, union membership nearly quin-
tupled between 1941 and 1954 (Collier and Collier 1991: 341). By the time of
the second Peronist government in the mid-1970s some five million workers
were unionized (Godio, Palomino, and Wachendorfer 1988: 87-88), virtually
all of them belonging to the Peronist labor confederation. This represented
one-half of the national labor force, giving Argentina by far the highest level
of trade union density in the Western hemisphere. Given its organizational den-
sity, centralized direction, and political unity, Argentina’s trade union move-
ment was characterized by McGuire (1997: 239) as “among the world’s
strongest.” And although the Peronist party organ was notoriously
underinstitutionalized, it boasted a formidable grassroots constituency, “with
more than three million members and tens of thousands of local branches
throughout the country” (Levitsky 1998a: 457).
In Chile, the labor movement was invigorated by militant mining workers,
and by the 1930s it had developed close ties to Socialist and Communist par-
ties that became the most electorally successful in Latin America. Under the
democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende in the early 1970s union
membership swelled to 35 percent of the workforce (see Table 1), and both the
Socialist and Communist parties boasted several hundred thousand members.
The national labor confederation was dominated by the left, but included Chris-
tian Democratic tendencies as well. In Peru, the populist APRA beat out the
Communist Party for control of the labor movement in the 1930s, but the elec-
toral proscription of APRA, military/oligarchic political domination, and de-
layed ISI limited the development of organized labor. A reformist military
government in the late 1960s and 1970s stimulated both industrialization and
labor mobilization, however, and a variety of leftist parties outflanked APRA
and the military in this reinvigorated labor movement. The number of unions
increased sixfold between 1960 and 1975 (Stephens 1983: 67), and trade union
density was estimated at a quarter of the workforce when a series of national
strikes rocked the military government in the late 1970s (see Table 1). After
democracy was restored in 1980, nearly 80 percent of unionized workers be-
longed to a national confederation that was closely allied to the United Left
(IU) coalition, which became the second largest electoral force in the country
by the mid-1980s.
At the structural level, class distinctions emerged as a central axis of politi-
cal competition in all three nations, although this axis developed later and proved
Roberts 21

to be less durable in Peru. In Argentina, Peronism erupted in a context of rapid

industrialization, which more than doubled the number of workers in large-
and medium-sized manufacturing establishments between 1935 and 1945
(Collier and Collier 1991: 155). Although Peronism mobilized a multi-class
coalition, its bedrock support was drawn from working- and lower-class groups,
and sharp class distinctions were manifested in electoral behavior (Mora y
Araujo and Llorente 1980). In Chile, class-based political divisions emerged
in the mining export enclaves in the north, and they were reinforced by the
growth of manufacturing in urban centers under the influence of aggressive
ISI policies. As in Argentina, electoral loyalties were differentiated by class:
the Socialist and, especially, the Communist party relied heavily on blue-col-
lar support, the Christian Democrats had a diverse constituency with special
strength in the middle class, and conservative parties attracted votes from elite
sectors and the peasantry (Aldunate 1985). In Peru, APRA’s initial militancy
terrified elite sectors, but the party grew increasingly conservative and multi-
class over time. Consequently, electoral studies prior to the 1968 military coup
provided little evidence of class distinctions in voting behavior (Dietz 1985).
Following rapid growth in the manufacturing labor force and trade union mem-
bership, however, voting patterns were heavily influenced by class when de-
mocracy was restored in the 1980s. The United Left coalition swept mayoral
races throughout Lima’s urban slums, and voting in presidential elections was
also marked by class distinctions (Tuesta Soldevilla 1989; Cameron 1994).
Finally, the cultural dimension of a class cleavage was also present in all
three nations. Class identities lay at the core of the Marxist ideology that domi-
nated Chile’s labor movement and leftist parties during the ISI era. Although
the Socialist Party was more socially heterogeneous than the Communist Party,
it was even more insistent on the class character of the Left’s political project
after the late 1950s. In Argentina, Peronism displaced the left in the labor move-
ment, and Marxism was notably absent as an ideological referent inside the
Peronist sphere. Nevertheless, Peronism itself cultivated powerful collective
identities that were infused with class content, sharply differentiating between
elite and popular cultural strains in Argentine society (Ostiguy 1998). In Peru,
the early predominance of Aprismo dampened class identities, as APRA wooed
middle-class support and fostered paternalistic relations between workers and
employers. The late 1960s and 1970s, however, witnessed the rise of new Marx-
ist groups that strongly articulated class identities and encouraged militant union
tactics (Balbi 1989). This clasista tendency asserted its hegemony within the
labor movement under the Velasco military regime, and it remained dominant
following the return to democracy in 1980, when it forged close ties to the
United Left coalition.
In recent decades, however, changes in both structural conditions and politi-
cal agency have contributed to the erosion of class cleavages along all three of
these dimensions. Under the new structural conditions, social inequalities have
deepened, but class distinctions have been diffused by the fragmentation of
labor markets and the growing differentiation of the workforce. De-industrial-
ization, privatization, and public-sector spending cuts have shrunk the large
concentrations of workers in the most heavily unionized sectors of the economy,
22 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

while the spread of subcontracting has enlarged the role of micro-enterprises.

The surplus, underemployed workforce has gravitated to the informal sector;
by 1998, the International Labour Organization (1998: 1) estimated that 59
percent of non-agricultural employment and 85 percent of new job growth in
Latin America were in the informal and micro-enterprise sectors. Informal and
micro-enterprise workers comprised 53.8 percent of the non-agricultural labor
force in Argentina (up from 39.4 percent in 1980), 51.3 percent in Chile, and
59.3 percent in Peru. These sectors are notoriously difficult to organize, as
workers’ economic activities leave them widely dispersed, disconnected, and
unregulated. Furthermore, these structural changes, reinforced by policy re-
forms that enhance the flexibility of labor markets, have increased the precari-
ousness and heterogeneity of employment. Market reforms have shredded job
security protections, and there is a growing reliance on fixed-term and non-
contract labor. By 1997 the percentage of workers with temporary contracts
ranged from 30 percent in Chile to 74 percent in Peru, while 85 percent of the
new contracts registered in Argentina were fixed-term. According to the ILO,
“Between 65 percent and 95 percent of those working in micro-enterprises do
not have a written contract and 65 percent to 80 percent are not affiliated to a
healthcare system or old-age pension programme” (International Labour Or-
ganization 1998: 40).
In short, the new economic model concentrates fewer workers in stable work-
place relationships. The dispersion and segmentation of the labor market, both
functionally and legally, make it increasingly difficult to identify a harmony
of interest between formal, informal, temporary contract, and non-con-
tract employees. There is wide variation in the wages, work conditions,
job security, social benefits, and relations with capital across these differ-
ent categories of workers, and little to provide a sense of collective iden-
tity. Indeed, many informal workers occupy an ambiguous class position,
participating in diversified economic activities that combine wage labor with
petty entrepreneurship.
Labor fragmentation has made it increasingly difficult for workers to en-
gage in collective action in either the workplace or the partisan sphere, se-
verely eroding the organizational dimension of class cleavages. At the
workplace, the rate of unionization has fallen sharply in all three nations. In
Chile, the combination of political repression and economic restructuring un-
der the Pinochet dictatorship caused the rate of unionization to plunge from 35
percent to less than 10 percent in the mid-1980s. Even after the return to de-
mocracy the rate hovered under 13 percent in the mid-1990s (Programa de
Economía y Trabajo 1996: 286). In Argentina, where close to 50 percent of the
workforce was unionized in the mid-1970s, the rate fell to 22.3 percent by
1995. In Peru’s less industrialized economy, a quarter of the workforce was
unionized in the late 1970s, but by the early 1990s the rate had fallen to under
6 percent (International Labour Organization 1997: 235).
These dramatic declines in unionization find parallels in labor’s diminished
organizational voice in the partisan arena. In Peru, the profound crisis of the
1980s devastated APRA and led to the collapse of labor’s primary partisan
ally, the United Left. Organizationally diminished and politically orphaned,
Roberts 23

the labor movement was rendered defenseless against Alberto Fujimori’s

neoliberal offensive, and unions’ tepid response to his “shock program” con-
trasted starkly with their fierce resistance to an earlier and more timid genera-
tion of market reforms in the late 1970s.
In Chile and Argentina, the historic labor-backed parties survived the transi-
tion to neoliberalism, but they adapted to the new era in part by relaxing their
ties to organized labor. For example, there has been a pronounced “de-union-
ization” of Peronism since the mid-1980s (Levitsky 1998a). In part, this re-
flects efforts by political leaders to gain control over a poorly institutionalized
party apparatus (the Partido Justicialista, or PJ) that historically lacked au-
tonomy from the labor movement. It is also attributable to the free market
revolution imposed by Peronist President Carlos Menem after he was elected—
with labor support—in the midst of a hyperinflationary crisis in 1989. Menem’s
reforms reversed Peronism’s statist tradition and deepened preexisting fissures
in the labor movement. As explained by Murillo (1997: 83), some unions ex-
pressed frontal opposition to market reforms, others remained loyal “in ex-
change for political appointments and privileged relations with the executive,”
while still others looked for economic opportunities in the marketplace. Labor
factionalism facilitated a reorganization of the PJ that reduced the party’s fi-
nancial dependence on unions and weakened the unions’ control over the party
leadership and the candidate selection process. Increasingly, a territorial mode
of organization fueled by local and provincial patronage machines displaced
the PJ’s corporatist structures (Levitsky 1998a).
Likewise, the Chilean Socialist Party (PS) has distanced itself from orga-
nized labor in an effort to broaden its appeal and elicit the cooperation of busi-
ness elites with the new democratic regime. The PS has been a key ally of the
Christian Democratic Party in a center-left governing coalition (the
Concertación) that maintained the core of Pinochet’s neoliberal model follow-
ing Chile’s return to democracy in 1990. Socialist labor leaders have occupied
top positions in the Central Unica de Trabajadores (CUT), but organized labor
wields little or no influence in the highly professionalized party leadership,
and serious tensions have existed between the national party organization and
its affiliates in the labor movement. At the beginning of the 1990s the CUT,
under Christian Democratic and Socialist leadership, strongly supported the
new governing coalition, but it became increasingly critical of economic con-
tinuity under the Concertación. In 1994 the CUT temporarily suspended its
dialogue with the government due to its failure to reform the labor code, which
places serious constraints on organized labor and collective bargaining rights.
Socialist labor leaders eventually broke with the party line in 1996 by aban-
doning their alliance with Christian Democrats in the CUT directorate and
restoring their historic alliance with the Communist Party, which is not a mem-
ber of the Concertación. The labor leadership of the Socialist Party subsequently
split, and by the end of 1998 the Communist Party had asserted control over a
deeply divided and politically isolated CUT, which represented more than half
of Chile’s organized workers but less than seven percent of the total workforce
(El Mercurio, 1998: A1, A31). Conflicts over workers’ rights thus created op-
portunities for the Communist Party (PC) to recuperate terrain in the labor
24 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

movement, but the PC remained on the margins of national political institu-

tions. The PC has never participated in the Concertación, and with only 4-5
percent of the national vote it has not been able to gain entry to the parliament
under a “binomial” electoral system that excludes minor parties. Labor’s voice
in the national political arena, therefore, remains highly muted.
As labor’s organizational weight diminished in both the workplace and the
partisan arena, class became a less significant structural determinant of elec-
toral competition, causing class-based voting distinctions to erode in all three
nations. In Argentina, partisan identities and patronage resources helped the
Peronist party retain most of its lower-class base in the 1995 elections, but the
PJ also attracted newfound support from middle- and upper-class voters who
sympathized with Menem’s market reforms (Gibson 1997: 364-366). Many of
these new voters abandoned the PJ in the 1999 electoral debacle, when Eduardo
Duhalde tried to distance himself from Menem and his neoliberal project, only
to receive the lowest vote ever for a Peronist presidential candidate. Duhalde’s
support base was heavily lower class, but the victorious slate led by the cen-
trist Radical Party and the center-left FREPASO made new inroads among the
poor while crafting a multi-class electoral coalition.20 In short, the PJ retains a
predominantly lower-class constituency, but it no longer makes an exclusive
claim on popular political identities, and it increasingly organizes its adher-
ents through vertical, territorially based patronage networks rather than hori-
zontal, class-based corporatist institutions.
These patterns are not unique to Argentina. In Peru, Alberto Fujimori was
originally elected by the working- and lower-class constituencies that previ-
ously supported the United Left and APRA, but his reelection campaign in
1995 transcended class-based voting distinctions. Fujimori used state patron-
age to retain lower-class supporters despite a harsh economic adjustment pro-
gram, at the same time that he won over elite sectors with his economic
reforms. In both countries there was some evidence of a U-shaped curve in
the 1995 elections, with Menem and Fujimori drawing their highest levels
of support from the wealthy and the poor, while struggling to win the alle-
giance of the middle class. Fujimori, for example, averaged 65.4 percent
of the vote in the 15 poorest districts of Lima and 63.5 percent in the two
wealthiest districts, compared to 56.6 percent in seven upper-middle-class dis-
tricts and 60.8 percent in seven lower-middle-class districts (Roberts and Arce
1998: 237). Surveys of voter intentions conducted before the April 2000 presi-
dential elections demonstrated that Fujimori retained a multi-class constitu-
ency with slightly higher levels of support among the lower-income
categories (Apoyo Opinión y Mercado S.A. 2000: 18). This scrambling of
political loyalties and erosion of class-based voting distinctions are espe-
cially likely where pro-labor parties or other “popular” leaders shoulder the
burden of implementing structural adjustment policies, as has often been the
case in Latin America.
The Chilean case is different, as structural adjustment was imposed by the
labor-repressive Pinochet dictatorship rather than a political actor associated
with popular movements. This might have been expected to deepen Chile’s
class cleavage, but public opinion surveys indicate that the influence of class
Roberts 25

on partisan identities has sharply declined since the early 1970s (Mainwaring
and Torcal 1998). Although class-based voting distinctions still exist, they
weakened in 1999, despite a presidential campaign that pitted a Socialist
(Ricardo Lagos of the governing Concertación) against a former adviser to
Pinochet (Joaquín Lavín). As seen in Table 4, the positive correlation between
district-level poverty and the vote for the Concertación in Santiago declined in
1999. Indeed, there is a strong negative correlation between poverty and
Concertación vote changes between 1993 and 1999, indicating sharp electoral
losses in the poorest districts, whereas the rightist coalition made significant
electoral gains in those districts. This dilution of Chile’s class cleavage attests
to the ability of a conservative candidate to penetrate electorally among popu-
lar sectors by appealing to immediate economic concerns at a time when Lagos
and the left had abandoned traditional class and redistributive themes.
These experiences demonstrate that class cleavages have also eroded along
the cultural dimension in all three nations. As Mainwaring and Torcal (1998)
suggest, class cleavages are never simply a reflection of structural conditions;
they are invariably constructed and reproduced by political agency, and if par-
ties and political leaders cease to politicize class distinctions, their cultural
and organizational hold inevitably weakens. Such a de-politicization has oc-
curred in Latin America, and it has seriously undercut class-based collective
identities. The collapse of Marxism has deprived parties and unions in Chile
and Peru of a major ideological justification for class-based discourses and
organizational strategies. Likewise, lengthy struggles to restore democratic
institutions and manage economic crises have encouraged political leaders to
develop strategies around national goals rather than class projects. In Chile
and Argentina, the Socialist and Peronist parties, respectively, have ceased to
articulate an alternative model of development that appeals explicitly to work-
ers, and both parties have sought to attract middle- and upper-class support in
order to expand their electoral base, de-polarize the political arena, and induce
private sector collaboration in the development process. In Peru, studies of
workers have discovered a weakening of class identities and a growing attach-
ment to individualized economic solutions, including informal entrepreneur-
ship (Parodi 1986). In short, actors at both the elite and mass levels are far less

Table 4
Correlations Between District-Level Poverty and the Presidential
Vote in Metropolitan Santiago, 1989-1999
Electoral Coalition 1989 1993 1999 Vote Change
Concertacion .80 .84 .71 -.66
Right -.77 -.81 -.71 .60

Note: All entries are significant at .001.

Sources: Electoral data was obtained from the web site of the Interior Ministry of Chile
( Poverty data was obtained from Realidad Económico-Social de los Hogares
en Chile (1996: 221-222).
26 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

inclined to politicize class than they were in the past, causing its political sa-
lience to diminish despite the deepening of social inequalities.

The Transformation of Political Representation in Comparative Perspective

Similar patterns of cleavage erosion can also be found in the other labor-mobi-
lizing cases. Trade union density has declined in Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua,
and Venezuela, while party-union bonds have been loosened or severed. Brazil
stands alone as the one labor-mobilizing case where there has not been a sharp
decline in trade unionization. Even in Brazil, however, class has not been a
major influence on political loyalties and voting behavior in recent times
(Mainwaring 1999: 39-54), despite close ties between the largest labor con-
federation and the Workers’ Party (PT). In Venezuela, where a class cleavage
existed at the birth of the party system only to erode over the course of the
post-1958 democratic regime, class reemerged as a political division with the
rise of Hugo Chávez in the late 1990s. Chavismo, however, lacks the organiza-
tional dimension of a class cleavage, as Chávez has done little to organize his
subaltern constituency in either the workplace or the electoral arena. Prefer-
ring a direct, unmediated relationship with the masses, Chávez has not trans-
formed his Bolivarian movement into a more institutionalized party
organization, and he has clashed with the leadership of the Confederation of
Venezuelan Workers (CTV), which remained loyal to traditional parties. Pro-
claiming a desire to “demolish the CTV,” Chávez has tried to organize a paral-
lel labor movement and sponsored a plebiscite to suspend incumbent union
officials (Latinamerica Press, 2000: 4). Consequently, although vestiges of
class cleavages remain in a number of countries, their structural, organiza-
tional, and cultural dimensions have been disarticulated, such that they no longer
reinforce each other in an integrated manner.
Looking comparatively, several related, dominant trends can be identified
in partisan competition and interest intermediation in the labor-mobilizing cases.
In the partisan arena, there has been an erosion of stratified axes of competi-
tion and a reinforcement of segmented patterns. Venezuela under Chávez may
be an outlier to this trend, but even there the rich-poor divide is not based on
class organization from below. Elsewhere in the region, electoral competition
is less structured by social differentiation, and it is increasingly defined in the
political arena alone by alternative organizational loyalties or patronage net-
works. Parties—or, in some cases, personalistic leaders—thus appeal to diver-
sified constituencies that cut across profound class distinctions. Given the
fragmentation of labor markets and the weakening of trade unions, ties to class
organizations are less vital for the mobilization of popular support; the unor-
ganized masses outnumber those who engage in collective action, and they are
more easily reached through the mass media or political patronage than grass-
roots organization.
It follows, then, that state corporatist modes of interest intermediation have
weakened (Oxhorn 1998), while patron-clientelism and unmediated leader-mass
relationships are thriving in a highly fragmented social landscape. Labor unions
remain as political actors, but their organic ties to party and state institutions
Roberts 27

have loosened, their access to the policy-making arena has narrowed, and their
ability to speak for a plurality of popular interests has diminished. In a more
complex and specialized civil society, labor unions now compete for in-
fluence with a plethora of other interest groups, social movements, and
NGO’s, and although they have gained organizational autonomy, they have
undoubtedly lost political influence. Under the new economic model, states
are less inclined to mediate between capital and labor, and labor lacks the
political resources to compel extra-market forms of regulation. The with-
drawal of the state and the weakening of labor organizations—two paral-
lel and mutually reinforcing processes—allow relations between labor and
capital to be determined by the marketplace, where the mobility of capital
provides a decisive advantage. Capital, however, does not rely solely on its
market power; at the same time that the organization of class cleavages has
eroded from below, it has strengthened from above, as business groups have
increasingly organized intersectoral “encompassing associations” to articulate
and defend their class interests (Durand and Silva 1998). These associations
play a significant role in the policy-making process, as they generally are granted
direct access to governing officials. Their impact on party systems is less cer-
tain, however, due to their desire to maintain political autonomy and cultivate
a broad range of political contacts.
Taken together, these trends suggest that the labor-mobilizing party systems
are far less distinguishable from the elitist systems than they were during the
ISI era. Indeed, by the 1990s there were few, if any, of these systems that
still warranted the appellation of labor mobilizing. Party systems still vary
in their levels of institutionalization and fragmentation, but there is much
less variance in the extent to which parties try to organize class cleavages
or use them as a stimulus for political mobilization. Likewise, with the
shift of the partisan left toward the political center, the traditional differen-
tiation between party systems with high and low levels of ideological polariza-
tion has largely disappeared. It is almost as if the region is turning to a new
form of oligarchic politics—now shorn of its previous suffrage restrictions—
in which political competition revolves around dominant personalities or lead-
ership cadres, each drawing from a diverse and undifferentiated pool of
supporters, and none of them using ideology or class interests as a basis for
political mobilization. This “re-oligarchization” of politics is a potent reflec-
tion of the disintegration of class politics in the midst of deepening social in-
equalities. It also suggests that Duverger’s famous “contagion from the Left”
has been reversed in contemporary Latin America (Duverger 1964: 25). In an
era dominated by market individualism and media-based mass communica-
tions, the organizational and electoral superiority of class-mass parties is no
longer self-evident, and the elitist organizational forms that Duverger consigned
to the historical archives have demonstrated renewed vigor.

* Research for this article was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SBR-
9818501). I would like to thank Ruth Berins Collier, Steven Levitsky, Kurt Weyland, Erik
28 Studies in Comparative International Development / Winter 2002

Wibbels, Karen Remmer, and the anonymous reviewers for insightful comments on earlier
drafts or presentations of this manuscript. I also thank Christina Schatzman for capable re-
search assistance.
1. On the juxtaposition of inequality and classlessness, see Ossowski (1963: 96-110).
2. As explained by Ruth Berins Collier (1992), labor-backed parties extended a range of benefits
and protections to workers in exchange for political loyalty. These corporatist political rela-
tionships fit logically within the protected labor markets of the ISI model, but they were seri-
ously challenged by the shift to market liberalism in the 1980s and 1990s.
3. For an overview of the distributive consequences of the economic crisis and market reforms,
see Bulmer-Thomas (1997) or Inter-American Development Bank (1997: 70-77).
4. The construction of cleavages in the political arena has been recognized by a variety of au-
thors, including Dahl 1966, Zuckerman 1975, and Inglehart 1984.
5. This conceptualization of a segmented cleavage differs from that of Eckstein (1966: 34), who
used the term for any division based on “objective social differentiation.”
6. On the conditions for strong class cleavages, see Lipset and Rokkan (1967: 21-22).
7. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of trade union data across economic sectors in Latin America.
During the ISI era it was widely assumed that unionization levels were greater in the secondary
sector than the primary or tertiary sectors, although service workers in education, banking, and
transport were highly organized in some nations. Recent trends toward subcontracting and
small and medium sized firms in manufacturing may well have narrowed historic gaps in union-
ization levels between the secondary and tertiary sectors.
8. European data are taken from Cameron (1984: 165). Data for Latin America has been calcu-
lated by the author from the sources listed in Appendix A.
9. The ISI era roughly spanned the period between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the
onset of the debt crisis in the 1980s. Clearly, nations differed in the timing of their ISI pro-
grams and periods of labor mobilization. Nicaragua was the last country to enter the labor-
mobilizing camp, as it retained a highly elitist and patrimonial party system until the Sandinista
Revolution in 1979, which led to the emergence of a significant class cleavage at the tail end of
the ISI era. And countries like Brazil incorporated a labor-mobilizing party into a party system
that was otherwise highly patrimonial and oligarchic.
10. For example, Peronism in Argentina built powerful labor unions but a relatively weak party
apparatus; see McGuire 1997 or Levitsky 1998b. Conversely, APRA in Peru and Acción
Democrática in Venezuela built highly disciplined party organizations; on the latter see Coppedge
11. In addition to organized labor, populist coalitions often attracted elements of the urban and
rural poor, middle class groups that benefited from growing public sector employment, and
even industrialists who stood to gain from government protection, contracts, or an expansion
of the domestic market. Furthermore, populist parties often relied on conservative, cross-class
patronage networks to mobilize electoral support in peripheral areas, much like elitist parties
where segmented cleavage structures prevailed; see Gibson 1997. Consequently, populist cleav-
ages were well-defined politically, but somewhat amorphous sociologically and ideologically,
and their degree of stratification ranged from very high (as in Argentina) to relatively low (as in
Venezuela, where class distinctions gradually diminished in the 1960s and 1970s, or Brazil,
where a class discourse is more common than class voting).
12. Despite the reformist, social democratic reputation of Costa Rica’s dominant party since 1948,
the National Liberation Party (PLN), this case does not belong to the labor-mobilizing cat-
egory. In contrast to European social democratic parties, the PLN did not emerge with a core
constituency in the labor movement; its roots lie in middle- and upper-middle-class university
networks that allied with conservative factions of the oligarchy in opposition to the populist
reforms and labor mobilization headed by President Rafael Angel Calderón in the 1940s. In
the political realignment that followed the 1948 civil war the PLN repressed and demobilized
organized labor, which had strong ties to the Communist Party, and it generally represented
middle-class interests in competition with a reconstructed oligarchic bloc. Although the PLN
is a multi-class party that expanded the state’s welfare responsibilities and eventually estab-
lished some ties to workers’ organizations, it clearly does not qualify as a labor-mobilizing
party. For further detail, see Yashar 1995.
Roberts 29

13. These organizational characteristics are reminiscent of the discussion of “caucus” parties in
Duverger (1964: 17-23).
14. In Uruguay, organized labor was an important constituency for the leftist Frente Amplio (FA)
coalition, which became a significant political force in the last elections before the 1973 mili-
tary coup and then again following the restoration of democracy in the mid-1980s. The emer-
gence of this labor-mobilizing leftist coalition occurred long after labor’s initial political
incorporation by the oligarchic Colorado party, however, and the electoral domination of the
two traditional parties remained intact through the 1990s. By the time the FA was consolidated
as a major electoral force in the mid-1980s, the ISI era was effectively over, and the economic
transition in Uruguay was already producing a steady erosion in the level of unionization. The
Uruguayan case, then, fits much better in the elitist than the labor-mobilizing category.
15. Argentina surpassed the European average, while Nicaragua and Chile briefly approached it
during peak periods of labor mobilization, but none of these nations came close to the union
density levels attained in Europe’s most highly organized labor movements.
16. On the relationship between mining camps and militant forms of class solidarity, see Bergquist
1986, especially Chapter 2.
17. The difference in means for this variable falls just short of statistical significance at the .05
level, however.
18. This appears to contradict the results of previous empirical tests which discovered a modest
positive correlation between trade union density and legislative electoral stability in Latin
America when controls are introduced for economic and party system institutional variables;
see Roberts and Wibbels 1999. The analysis undertaken here suggests, however, that high
levels of trade union density are part of a broader syndrome of political and economic develop-
ment that has not been conducive to electoral stability in contemporary Latin America. This is
an example of how multiple conjunctural causation may not be detected by multivariate statis-
tical models that isolate or decontexualize the effects of individual variables; see Ragin 1987,
especially Chapter 2.
19. The Pedersen (1993) index measures volatility on a scale from 0 to 100 by aggregating the
percentage vote losses and gains of individual parties and then dividing by two.
20. For example, in a survey conducted by Graciela Romer y Asociados in May 1999, Duhalde
was supported by 42.1 percent of respondents in the lowest socioeconomic category, compared
to 10 percent of respondents in the highest category. Opposition candidate Fernando de la Rua,
on the other hand, was preferred by 34.7 percent of respondents in the lowest category, only
slightly less than Duhalde, and 53.8 percent in the highest category.


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Roberts 33

Appendix A

No single source provides reliable time series data on either trade union
density or union concentration in Latin America. My estimates of these indica-
tors of union strength rely heavily on membership data for the 1980s and 1990s
reported by the International Labour Organization (1997: 235). This ILO data
was used to calculate peak union density scores in Colombia, Costa Rica, the
Dominican Republic, Mexico, Paraguay, and Venezuela. Where the ILO’s data
did not cover periods of peak unionization, data was drawn from the following
authoritative sources: for Argentina, Godio, Palomino, and Wachendorfer (1987:
87-88); for Bolivia, Harper (1987: 52); for Brazil, Annuario Estatístico do Brasil
(1993: 2-250); for Chile, Berrera and Valenzuela (1996: 234); for Ecuador and
Panama, the Foreign Labor Trends series of the U.S. Department of Labor; for
Honduras and Peru, Kurian (1982); for Nicaragua, Upham (1996) and Centro
Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (1995: 35-42); and for Uruguay, Gargiulo
(1989: 231).
Union concentration scores were also calculated from data provided by the
ILO (1997: 235), Harper (1987), and Upham (1996). Additionally, I drew in-
formation from Greenfield and Maram (1987).