New adaptive dynamics



Latin America facing a capitalist world order in crisis


An interpretation common to several analysts concerns the existence, currently, of a global polycrisis (that is, several overlapping and feedback crises) that has been questioning many of the narratives of neoliberal globalization and the protagonism of the West as a whole.

This systemic crisis has been expressed, among other aspects: (i) in terms of economic-financial crisis and the advance of austerity and political authoritarianism; (ii) in terms of the climate crisis and the considered inevitable energy transition; and (iii) in terms of the crisis of Western multilateralism and the strengthening of the culture of war.

In other words, the fact that each crisis corresponds to a kind of response, shows that, even though the current moment is an acute crisis of the capitalist world order, this crisis, far from being terminal in nature, is accompanied by new adaptive dynamics of the system. And as these dynamics pose challenges for Latin America, we intend to highlight them for reflection in this short text.

After the crisis of not only the real economy, but also the fiscal and banking crisis of 2008, the solutions sought by the United States and Europe, a result, fundamentally, of pressure from financial capital, revealed a commitment to the so-called austerity government system. There is no doubt that, amid slow accumulation, neoliberalism has been reinforcing itself through its radicalization, with evident setbacks on the socioeconomic and political levels.

In socioeconomic terms, the new stage is characterized by increasingly exclusionary measures, anchored in fiscal adjustment, calling into question the welfare policies possible under traditional neoliberalism. And this adjustment is practiced with the aim of increasing the competitive capacity of capital at the expense of the working and living conditions of the people and environmental degradation.

In political terms, there is the spread of authoritarian forms of political domination and, in particular, the rise of the extreme right as an alternative to resolving the crisis. This last force is elected through an anti-system discourse that, by combating traditional neoliberalism, seeks to channel popular nonconformity and strengthen itself in the face of discredit from governments.

However, once in power, the movement of this extreme right is one of neoliberal radicalization combined with social repression. The fact is that neoliberal policy has proven to be even more reactionary and regressive than in the past, especially in terms of the increase, in the social field, of inequality, conservatism, militarization and demobilization.


Amid the global context of strengthening extreme neoliberalism and authoritarian responses to the crisis, we also saw in Latin America the return of certain forms of political authoritarianism in the face of the implementation, in the periphery, of the austerity government. Despite the diversity of national scenarios, the use of institutional ruptures and physical and symbolic violence is, in fact, a regularity in the region.

This is done with the aim of disciplining progressive or popular forces and leaders, or to repress protests and social demonstrations, removing the popular classes and left-wing forces from political life. Just look, for example, at recent situations in countries like Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru, which highlight, in one way or another, the current Latin American challenge of strengthening democracy with social justice in the face of the advance of neoliberalism. authoritarian or neo-fascist.

In turn, the climate crisis and the energy transition response add to the previous situation. In relation to the climate crisis, as well as with the neoliberal prescription of austerity, Latin America once again faces an arbitrary formulation of the supposed “solution” to the crisis.

Although there is no doubt about climate change due to global warming, the solution that has been defended by governments and large multinationals in the geopolitical North is limited to an energy transition that, based on the discourse of carbon neutrality, has fundamentally met the geopolitical and economic reorganization of advanced capitalist countries, aiming to guarantee the energy, industrial and technological security of these countries.

And it is precisely on the peripheral countries, especially those in Latin America, that the extractive pressure of critical raw materials and the overexploitation of labor are exerted, further reinforcing productive specialization, deforestation and socio-environmental devastation.

In this way, what we have behind the neoliberal logic of productive decarbonization is a technological transition of a technocratic nature that contributes to the maintenance of the subordination of the capitalist periphery. In the new logic, Latin American territories continue to be seen by imperialist and extra-regional powers as a type of “privatizable spaces” suitable for carrying out investments aimed at the exploration and export of natural goods such as lithium, or clean energy such as green hydrogen, to give some current examples. In fact, this external financing guarantees their countries privileged access to critical raw materials, most of the time without the counterpart of any type of accountability for the social and environmental impacts of the projects implemented.


Amidst the so-called Industry 4.0 and the deepening of commercial and technological asymmetries between the geopolitical North and South, the vigor of the extractive-export mandate is evident, which continues to permeate the region as a whole. And this mandate is endorsed by the lack of integrated action by Latin American countries in defense of their strategic natural assets, diluting the region's possibilities of bargaining for resources for sovereign socioeconomic development in the face of the new energy transitional scheme.

And what is currently underway is not just a restructuring of the global economy and infrastructure, but also of global geopolitics. And, at this point, we arrive at the third axis of our text referring to the crisis of Western multilateralism amid the worsening of global tensions and accelerated polarization.

The intensification of competition between old and new powers is evident, expressed, for example, in the growing tensions between China and the United States, in the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, and in a kind of system of mutual vetoes in the United Nations Security Council. And this competition, which has been taking place through the recurrent appeal to violence and the use of various technologies whose impact is difficult to predict, unmasks, at the same time, a capitalist economy whose growth is increasingly guided by military and security logics.

This conflicting picture has been shaking not only the narratives of stability and world governance established throughout neoliberal globalization supported by the unipolar power of the United States, but also, and in a broader way, it has been contesting the dominance of Western powers in the interstate system. And how does Latin America face the complex scenario in question? Just as in relation to the issue of strategic natural assets, Latin America faces the current context in a fragmented, disintegrated and subordinated way to imperialist and extra-regional interests.


However, we must contrast this subaltern insertion of the region today with the exceptional nature of Brazilian foreign policy. Amidst the great demand for efforts to resolve domestic problems, the Lula government's foreign policy is currently acting on two fronts. With regard to the global front, Brazil has been demanding a less asymmetric and more peaceful world order, without divisions into antagonistic blocs, as it is understood that it will only be with more multipolarity that new margins of maneuver can be pursued in favor of the construction of shared prosperity.

On this front, BRICS+, despite the diversity of proposals and contradictions, has been presenting itself as the Brazilian government's privileged space to fight for multipolarity from the perspective of the South, that is, not taking sides in third-party conflicts, seeking to defend own interests. However, our region is far from unifying around this group.

Regarding the regional front, despite the apathy of some and the rejection by others of any initiative that could contradict the United States, the Lula government has been dedicating efforts to rebuilding a shared agenda of interests in South America, as well as strengthening of Mercosur. However, the regional scenario of difficult dialogue highlights the vigor of the Monroe Doctrine, which turned 200 years old last year. It continues to bring together those who seek to hinder regional integration and cooperation processes that, aiming for autonomy, could challenge North American hegemony in its own “backyard”.

In short, issues such as the authoritarian response to austerity and the increase in social inequalities; the strengthening of the extractive matrix amid intercapitalist competition over critical raw materials; and the highly polarized, militarized, unstable and unpredictable world order in transition corroborate that thinking and thinking about its economic, political and social project are essential and urgent tasks for Latin America.

*Leonardo Granato He is a professor of political science at UFRGS. Author, among other books, of The Latin American State: theory and history (popular expression). []

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