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Neo-liberalism, big business and the evolution of interest group activity in Latin America



In the 1980s and 1990s, the confluence of the third wave of democracy, neo-liberal economic reforms and economic crises in Latin America, produced several significant consequences for the region's underdeveloped interest group systems. By using an international political economy approach, this article examines these developments and particularly how neo-liberal policies affected the political fortunes of big business plus the broader political fall-out from neo-liberal policies. In essence, we make the argument that, for three reasons, the consequences of the confluence of these three developments for Latin America's emerging interest group system are mixed in terms of a more pluralist, open-access system. First, the influence of big business persists and in many ways has been enhanced as the economically and politically privileged position of large private companies since the 1980s has given way to economic concentration, transnationalization and the rise of multilatinas (Latin American multinational companies, which primarily operate across the region). Second, political opportunities have been opened for a range of interests, many from the left, that likely would not otherwise have emerged so early in the region. Third, the election of leaders opposed to neo-liberal policies may transform Latin America's political economy and aid in the democratization of its interest group system. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.