Dynamism and Change of Global South. The social construct of race shape political institutions, socio-economic hierarchies and the territoriality of the state in Latin America

Essay, 2020

6 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Question 6: How does the social construct of race shape political institutions, socio-economic hierarchies and the territoriality of the state in Latin America? Explore at least two of these dimensions (political, socioeconomic, spatial) providing empirical evidence to support your argument.

1. Introduction

“Any insult inflicted on a person, regardless of race, is a degradation of all mankind.” (Albert Camus)

Latin America is nearly twice the size of Europe and includes thirteen states in this territory of different spreads, with the same historical fate of colonization and the same connection to violence, but with great differences in economic development and population density as well as ethnic and cultural values and traditions (Milhelli 2003).

At the beginning of the 21st century, Latin America was one of the regions with the highest inequality rates apart from Africa. These are reflected in income and assets disparities as well as central distribution and access asymmetries; this primarily means access to public goods such as education, health and social security (Wehr, 2011). The rate of inequality is much higher in the rural areas of Latin America than in urban areas. A key element of inequality is the concentration of land in Latin America. The Gini Index measures Inequality with a statistical instrument: the nearer the coefficient approaches 1 the higher the inequality. As Wehr summarizes in her article, “2.4% of the arable land, while much of it of the cultivable soil in the hands of a few large landowners (0.22% of the population)” (Weisbrot/Sandoval 2008: 2-3). Such blatant property conflicts, however, are not isolated cases” (Wehr 2011 p.10).

In the List of the top 20 countries with the highest inequality of landowning were 16 states of Latin America. The poorest countries in South America were Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras and Nicaragua. Over 60% of the citizens were declared as poor at the end of the 1990s. Chile and Costa Rica had only 20% of the lowest rates of poorness (Krumwiede 2001).

Even the states like Chile has good economic data and the poverty rate dropped down about three percentage points based on the report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) . At the same time, only one percent of the population in Chile owns 26,5 percent of the whole property (Deutsche Welle 2019).

Even high rates of inequalities are in public goods like education and healthcare. According to the World Bank report "Poverty Reduction and Growth: Virtuous and

Vicious Circles" (Worldbank 2006: Chap.9) decides the level of income and education of parents to this day about the risks of early school leaving and school failure of Latin American children and thus has a decisive impact on their educational opportunities (Wehr, 2011, p.11.). Although every child goes to school, the education system is characterized by strong segmentation and low quality.

What are these forms of structured social inequality based on? This Essay will discuss the question of race and its effects on the political and socio-economic dimensions in Latin America. In times of globalization, digitalization, democratic states, welfare and social protection systems, how is such an inequality possible?

2. Latin America now and past

To understand the processes of the society and the political system in Latin America, a closer view of the history of the continent is necessary. "The globalization of the world is, in the first place the culmination of a process that began with the constitution of America and world capitalism as a Euro- centred colonial/modern world power” (Quijano 2000). The Eurocentrism force rested on the social classification of the global population in the division of the race. This idea is based on colonial times (Quijano, 2000). The development of America accompanied with some new elements to an innovative historical world. Firstly capitalism, trade and the world market brought salary, selfdom, slavery, reciprocity principle and commodity production (Quijano, 2000). This new power was called world capitalism and is still the axe around which everything revolves.

Second, the idea of race describes the relationship between the dominant and conquering population and the subdue as well as the conquered population. From this point of view, it is a kind of "natural" expression for the process of colonization. There are no physical differences between the active violent population and the suppressed population - it is only based on mental and cultural differences (Quijano, 2000). The author describes the new historical identities were established: “Spanish” or “Portuguese” (Whites and Europeans came much later), “Indians”, “Negros” and “Mestizos” (Quijano, 2000, p.216.)

The colonization time was ruled by the white European people and their whiteness was linked to a high salary. Europe as the central force capitalist power initiated a new geocultural identification of America, Europe, Asia, Africa and finally Oceania (Quijano, 2000). To switch from the history back to nowadays I will discuss the question of race and its role in Latin America.

The definition of racism from Memmi is “Racism is the generalized and absolute valuation of factual or fictional differences for the benefit of the accuser and to the detriment of his victim, which is intended to justify his privileges or aggression.” (Milhelli 2003 p.1). The most common determinants of this policy of exclusion are based on skin colour, physical characteristics and religious affiliation.

The majority of citizens are descendants of Asian, African and European immigrants, who through genetic mixing of different physical characteristics and languages formed a fundamental new entity. Nearly any South American is a Mestizo, but the degree of mixing varies considerably in the different parts of the continent. The part in the south which includes the countries Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and southern Brazil is well-nigh European.

Paraguay and Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia are indigenes and more Spanish. At least on the coasts of the Caribbean Sea and the north coast of Brazil, there is nearly no indigenous influence, the majority of the people there are called mulattos (Milhelli 2003).

This ethnic diversity gets ignored in the “type of racism” in Latin America. In the Racism in Europe, there is contempt for locals towards strangers and foreign people, but in South America, the indigenous people themselves are affected by racism by immigrant Europeans, and more also despise all other skin colours. The impression arises that South America wants to adapt to Europe's socio-culture as it happened in Argentina (Milhelli 2003).

How does inequality in today's Latin America effect on a political and socio-economic level? In which way does this inequality come about despite democratic forms of state? As is already touched on my introduction, the effects of inequality can be felt on several levels. I will discuss the first dimension which is the access to education.

Even the access to education in Latin America has gradually expanded for nearly all population groups and the average level of education of the population has increased continuously. The period of remaining in the education system is still based on social criteria like the social origin, and income of the parents, and level of education, ethnic attribution, state of health, place of residence, and at least the age. Especially disadvantaged social groups have a high level of educational failure.

The transition from primary school to secondary school is a particularly critical point here because it often means the end of school time for socially disadvantaged population groups (Nueva Sociedad 2012). Education requires direct and indirect costs like transportation, uniforms and learning materials. Some families are depended on the income on the labour market so their kids have to earn money to support the household. The only access to education does not guarantee to learn success. Itis also a question of quality and quantity (Nueva Sociedad 2012).

The relatively low quality of education in South America is a political issue which is finally recognized by society and politicians. To compare the education quality with the international standard, a lot of performance tests like PISA, SERCE and LIECE confirmed a truly low standard. The schools with a higher concentration of the poor population try to compensate for their social disadvantages and at the same time, the subject matter can be dealt with directly in schools of the middle and upper classes (nueva sociedad 2012). "In Latin America, there is 'pigmentocracy'. When you are blonde, you are associated with wealth, happiness and even goodness. Many Central Americans are of African descent and therefore undesirable," said Guillermo Alfaro, professor at the University of Iberoamericana in Mexico City (Deutsche Welle 2018).

The timeframe children spend in schools are limited by hierarchical fragmentation. The social devaluation of various educational certificates is much more evident with focused measures for problem schools or with special educational offers for the indigenous population (bilingual, intercultural or multicultural schools) (nueva sociedad 2012).

Those educational institutions often are stigmatized and have low social recognition. The educational certificates acquired there enjoy little social recognition and can even have a discriminatory effect on the labour market (nueva sociedad 2012). To conclude this part of the socio-economic dimension, you can see the school is currently not an institution of social integration in South America, but rather it solidifies existing social inequalities.

The second political dimension is the inequality in health care in Latin America. Health care is increasingly based on market economy factors, so that most women and people with low incomes are disadvantaged. “The World Health Organization (WHO) now sees a focus of national and international health policy in eliminating "unnecessary, avoidable and unjust inequalities" between men and women in health, access to health care and participation in decisions within the health system” (Latein Amerika Nachrichten 2002). The same right to health for women and men and equal access to health care is not given in Latin America. Furthermore, life expectancy is linked to income.


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Dynamism and Change of Global South. The social construct of race shape political institutions, socio-economic hierarchies and the territoriality of the state in Latin America
University of Westminster
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ISBN (eBook)
LatinAmerica, Rassism, GlobalSouth, Internationale Politik
Quote paper
Britta Nehring (Author), 2020, Dynamism and Change of Global South. The social construct of race shape political institutions, socio-economic hierarchies and the territoriality of the state in Latin America, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1026456


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