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This chapter argues that we are witnessing new processes of social participation and activism in Latin America, characterised by the absence of defined centres of deliberation and coordination, and by transitory leadership. This activism is part of a wider global wave of social protests that began with the Arab Spring in 2011, with which it shares common features such as the generational factor, the role of social media and networks and the use of information and communication technologies (icts), the gap between institutional politics and the citizenry, and the weakening of the convening and mobilisation power of classic social movements. The period 2011–15 was characterised by the emergence of this new kind of social activism in Latin America. This form of activism is growing in a specific regional context of increasing contradictions arising from exclusionary socio-economic development and incomplete human development characterised by radical social inequalities in democracies that still do not attend to the needs of large parts of society. Although these social movements may seem new, they are in fact the expression of underlying tensions present in most societies of the region; points of tension that have long represented the core of social conflict in Latin America: inequality, poverty and the exclusion they both imply. This exclusion is social (a lack of access to basic services, education, health and transport, etc.) and political (a lack of participation in decision-making processes, self-referential political classes and opaque institutional processes, and a lack of political–institutional accountability).

In: Alternative Pathways to Sustainable Development: Lessons from Latin America