- Center for Migration and Development
- Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies
- Program in Latino Studies
In the aftermath of the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” of the 1990s, democratic competition in Latin American became increasingly structured by a basic left-right ideological cleavage as new social and political movements repoliticized the region’s profound socio-economic inequalities. The so-called “left turn” of the early 21st century was followed by a series of conservative takeovers between 2015 and 2019, only to give way to a new cycle of leftist victories in recent years. Increasingly, left-right competition is associated with the politicization of cultural identities — including race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality — in addition to social and economic inequalities, making it essential to understand polarization in multi-dimensional political space. Polarization is also occurring in contexts where traditional political parties have lost their hold on the electorate and been displaced by new, often more radical contenders on the left or right “flanks” of mainstream party systems. This presentation will explore the causes and dynamics of polarization and assess their implications for Latin American democracies.