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The Market and the Masses in Latin America


  • Page extent: 356 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.6 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521899680)

What do ordinary citizens in developing countries think about free markets? Conventional wisdom views globalization as an imposition on unwilling workers in developing nations, concluding that the recent rise of the Latin American left constitutes a popular backlash against the market. In this book, Baker marshals public opinion data from eighteen Latin American countries to show that most of the region's citizens are enthusiastic about globalization because it has lowered the prices of many consumer goods and services while improving their variety and quality. Among recent free-market reforms, only privatization has caused pervasive discontent because it has raised prices for services like electricity and telecommunications. Citizens' sharp awareness of these consumer consequences informs Baker's argument that a political economy of consumption has replaced a previously dominant politics of labor and class in Latin America.

• Analyzes new and rarely used survey data from eighteen Latin American countries over a two-decade span • Touches on interesting contemporary topics that include the economics and impact of globalization, the rise of left-of-center presidents in Latin America, the degree to which politicians can shape public opinion, and the relevance of social class to political cleavages in Latin America • Develops a new political economy theory of the role of consumer interests in shaping economic policy preferences and political cleavages


Part I. Introduction and Theory: 1. Consuming the Washington consensus; 2. Theoretical framework: the top-down and bottom-up sources of public opinion; Part II. Mass Beliefs about Market Policies in Latin America: 3. The economic consequences and elite rhetoric of market reform in Latin America; 4. Are Latin Americans neoliberals?; 5. Are the poor neoliberals?; Part III. Mass Support for Reform in Brazil: 6. The economic consequences and elite rhetoric of market reform in Brazil; 7. How many Brazilians support market reforms?; 8. Which Brazilians support market reforms?; Part IV. Conclusion: 9. The politics of consumismo in Latin America.


'Studies of public opinion toward economic policy in Latin America conceive of citizens overwhelmingly as economic producers, not consumers as well. Andy Baker's well-crafted and compelling book challenges us to do otherwise, lest we fail to grasp how consumer interests shape opinion on neoliberal reform … In fact, Latin Americans feel differently toward separate features of market reform, such as privatization or free trade policy. Baker shows consumer interests better explain this variation than do market considerations … Baker offers both materialist and ideational lenses to explain why some Latin Americans are more neoliberal than others. He builds on studies of bounded rationality … to interrogate the cognitive processes through which people gather and weigh information when forming policy preferences. The result is an empirically rich and theoretically stimulating examination of contemporary public opinion in Latin America, replete with findings at odds with the conventional wisdom on the subject.' Comparative Political Studies

'This fine study provides a comprehensive analysis of the way mass publics in Latin America view market reforms. Andy Baker shows that people are inclined to evaluate trade liberalization quite differently from privatization, and he argues persuasively that such judgments are based not on their assets or their position in the labor market but on consumer interests and 'top-down' appeals by competing political elites. This is a book that is very timely in terms of current issues facing Latin America. It will be of considerable interest to Latin American specialists, to people with more general interests in the politics of market reform, and to students of political economy.' Robert Kaufman, Rutgers University

'This book is a major contribution to the study of the politics of market reform in Latin America. Baker develops a consumption-based theory of mass attitudes towards market liberalization, and he employs survey data and rigorous analytical tools to explain why citizens support some types of market reforms - namely, free trade - but oppose others, particularly the privatization of public utilities and state-owned enterprises. Although patterns of support and opposition are shaped by pragmatic considerations of material interests, what matters is not the impact of reforms on labor markets and employment opportunities, but rather their impact on prices, quality, and the availability of goods and services. This consumption-based theory sheds new light on a series of important questions that have perplexed scholars who study the political economy of development, including the sources of public support for market liberalization, the erosion of class cleavages in the political arena, and the potential social bases of new popular movements that contest the neoliberal model. This book is a must-read for any scholar who seeks to understand these questions.' Kenneth Roberts, Cornell University

'This book makes an important statement about how scholars and policymakers should understand the influence of public opinion on economic policy in Latin America. Baker provides a convincing explanation for why Latin Americans like free trade but dislike privatization: in the contemporary era, citizens across Latin America should be thought of as consumers, rather than as part of a system of economic production. The innovative application of the 'consumerist' theory Baker offers has wide-ranging implications for understanding the politics of economic reform across Latin America.' David Samuels, University of Minnesota

'Andy Baker's sophisticated and well-researched book develops an innovative consumer-oriented argument to explain the surprising fact that a majority of Latin Americans does not categorically reject 'neoliberalism', but actually supports free trade. The theoretical discussion, analysis of region-wide surveys, and case study of Brazil are impressive.' Kurt Weyland, University of Texas, Austin

'Andy Baker has written an impressive study of political economy and a pioneering work of public opinion formation in Latin America. [He] marshals an abundance of survey evidence in support of the theoretical claim that Latin Americans cast ballots as consumers, not as producers.' Fabrice Lehoucq, Bulletin of Latin American Research

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