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ABSTRACT

Through a comparison of three periods of health and pension reform in Chile, this article develops an explanation for the incremental form of social policy change that some Latin American nations have witnessed in recent years, despite the dramatic rise of left governments. It describes “postretrenchment politics,” which constitutes a realignment in the way politics plays out in countries that have undergone social policy retrenchment. In postretrenchment politics, the strengthened position of private business interests, combined with political learning legacies and lock-in effects generated by reforms, results in incremental political change, despite renewed efforts by left parties to address inequality. Global capital also plays an important contextual role, and may influence postretrenchment politics. In postretrenchment politics, newly reformed systems may achieve greater equity, but they do so in fragmented form.