The persistence of the global crisis and the risks of reconstitution of an even more virulent globalised capitalism in the coming decades require a faster understanding of the new geopolitical landscape and building critical thinking on the basis of emerging experiences. Latin America, a stakeholder of a true “change of era”, has actively embraced these issues in its social movements as well as in government, academia, trade union and civil spheres—although there is still no articulated body of analysis and alternative doctrines. Several meetings and seminars have deepened the discussion on these issues in Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, between 2013 and 2015, and lead us to make particular emphasis on the Argentine experience in the regional context.
Way out of the “end of history” imposed by the neoliberal conversion and new transformation cycle
Over nearly fifteen years, the Argentine people was able to get rid of the status of best student of the neoliberal orthodoxy, represented in its last stage by the Washington Consensus, to move against all odds to a new “neo-developmentalist” paradigm promoting the reconstruction of a social state, national coherences and social rights. The difficulty to use the traditional political route to get out of the “long neoliberal night”, which began with the civil-military dictatorship of 1976 and continued during the democratic transition regimes successively placed under the aegis of neoliberal doctrines until the “terminal crisis” of 2001, has somehow forced to take a leap forward and break with previous periods. In the case of Brazil we may speak of a “passive revolution” or “conservative reformism”, while the Argentine pathway of the last ten years has been more related with a progressive turn, driven by social and popular struggles and then submerged in new dynamics of social forces that managed to promote structural reforms and rebuild the ideological and political structures. Beyond the different interpretations that can be made of any process, the continuity, level of support and nature of the historical progress that the “Argentine anomaly” has built up over the last ten years alone confirm that it is not just a popular victory against the excesses of neoliberal conversion, but also a transformative historical cycle, with effects that have regional and international impacts. Several issues (and blind spots) are inspiring to reflect on new socio-political paradigms and post-neoliberal ways out.
Resignifying the relations with the world and shaping new fundamentals of interpretation
First, the resignification of the relations with the world, the renewal of geopolitical views and the affirmation of regional solidarities are three main aspects that cut across political spaces and social movements. Broadly speaking, from the popular sectors of the Southern Cone it is perceived that a new page of the world political system is being written, that it is strategic to prepare for it and also necessary to desing new patterns of interpretation. After the historical chapters of the Westphalian system (up to the First World War), the bipolar world and its system of balance of terror, the American domination and its ideological projections (end of history, clash of civilizations, democratic peace, disappearance of Russia and China, etc.), a new global architecture is currently in the making, adopting the contours of a new balance of force relations between the powers, with all its implications in terms of uncertainties, frictions and potential escalation of conflicts.
We will try to discuss this architecture schematically: A multipolar matrix in continuous reconfiguration, which overlaps traditional powers and emerging poles (India, Russia and China), transnational tree networks (the banking and financial sphere, mafias and terrorism, multinational corporations, intelligence and information networks), circumstantial alliances between states (G7, G8, G20, G77) and localised points of armed conflict (Ukraine, Syria, Iraq), against a background of unprecedented hegemony of the financial power, systemic threats (inequalities within societies, financial instability, climate change), moral and geopolitical decline of the Western bloc and shift of the geopolitical power towards East Asia. This matrix, with a high degree of interdependence between the elements of the system, has been eroding the capabilities of the nation-state without an architecture of “global governance” capable of putting things right, both with regard to social, environmental, economic and financial aspects and peace and security issues. The “vacuum” of regulatory power, increasingly tangible when actors multiply or when their real power increases, simultaneously puts multilateral institutions in check and exacerbates the return to a realpolitik based on power relations and imperialists “gestures” (multiplication of bilateral relations, free trade agreements, legal concentration, rearmament and military proliferation, etc.).
This global “hostile” context revives even more strongly the idea of the strategic battle for access to the abundant natural resources in the Latin American continent. This established fact has also spurred the efforts to renew the doctrines of national and regional security within the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). Moreover, the major players in the global game maintain the status quo in this architecture and find it difficult to assume a historical role of reform and intellectual deepening, particularly in the United States, Europe and to a lesser extent in China. For this reason, it is even more imperative that an effort of analysis and proposals be made by the smaller powers, the social movements and civil society.
Emerging critical thinking on the mutations of capitalism and the crisis of civilisation
The questioning of the single thought and the dominant cultural, scientific and epistemological patterns, with respect to what some sectors more radically view as a crisis of civilisation and the arrival of a new phase of capitalism, also contributes to this renewal of worldviews. Once released from its confrontation with other modes of accumulation after the Cold War, later unified by a new era of economic globalisation, capitalism was partly “dematerialised” and has learned to circumvent the traditional forms of struggle for social justice organised around the state and workers’ organisations. Capital accumulation strategies have evolved towards a greater vertical integration of production subsidiaries, and have been generally organised around transnational corporations, coordinating entire parts of the world economy, articulated around regional production networks. These regional networks, participating in the movement of multi-polarisation of the world, use an increasingly skilled labour and more technological factors, easily transferable but still very under-regulated.
These trends together produce a level of environmental pressure that clearly puts the planet increasingly on the edge of a precipice. They have reactivated a “neo-colonial” dispute over access to territories and resources, the exploitation of labour and the fragmentation of rights and organisational levels. In fact, the map of inequalities has been virtually redrawn within and between societies, according to a more complex geometry than the traditional segmentation of social classes or the North-South axis. For example, in the interior of Argentina, 20 % of salaried employees belong to a middle class with a high level of income and consumption, while the remaining 80 % is part of a more heterogeneous group with highly random levels of social vulnerability and union representation.
Given these mutations, the ideological and political struggle of the state, a return to its constituent function regulating and protecting from the effects of the global recession that began in 2008, resumes a central dimension in the continent. While the Manicheism of ideological struggles does not allow to go into conceptual depth on this subject, it does not prevent the state from being problematised by popular actors and identified as a part of both problems and solutions. The reconstruction of the Argentine state, for example, cannot be separated from the redeployment of an extended decentralised territorial structure that rests on a capital of political and organisational culture accumulated by social movements and political and trade union organisations. Moreover, the resistance and the extent of the struggles have taken shape within a group of industrial territories. This role of interface and social base, which Bolivians call “plurinational community state”, is as important as the allocation of resources and the definition of public policies at the central level. It allows to develop popular solidarity from the perspective of rights, to work in relation to all the realities of populations and to mitigate the effects of the individualism propagated by the consumer lifestyle. At another level, in terms of the effectiveness of public action, the limits of state regulations are more finely diagnosed to transform power relations and address social complexities. In some sectors, particularly the inclusion of highly marginalised groups or the externalities of the extraction of raw materials, the overlapping or territorial militancy of more public policies can be counterproductive if those policies are just remedial or out of step with the nature of the problems and power relations that must be addressed. In these cases, a structural transformation and new initiatives of confrontation are described as if they were increasingly needed at this stage of the transformation process. Regarding this last point, the Argentine law on audio-visual communication services, adopted in 2009 on the basis of the proposal of a broad coalition of civil actors from the communications sector, is an exemplary case of transition to a democratic, participatory, demonopolising and diversifying framework of communication assets. We can also highlight the Universal Child Allowance (AUH, Asignación universal por hijo) that grants the legal right to social protection and a minimum income to any vulnerable citizen (in situation of unemployment or informal work).
If emerging countries now play the role of engine of the global economy, this purpose clearly places them at the top of capital expansion strategies. An intense and ongoing effort of “attacks” and pressure is being made by economic monopolies in the legal, media and political fronts—and para-military fronts in the worst case–in order to shape institutions, multilateral spaces and state powers. “Soft” parliamentary coups, bilateral investment treaties, the concentration of legal frameworks for sovereign debt management, the reaffirmation of intellectual property, the dismantling and media distortion of public debate, or more globally the corporate spaces associated with the United Nations (Global Compact), are many aspects of the above. If all aspects are present in the spirits, a fact nevertheless emerges in relation to the lack of analytical production as to the impacts of the capitalist matrix on democratic institutionality and the transition pathways of popular processes.
Consolidate the regional space to enter the world actively and constructively
The construction of the Latin American regional space is an inseparable stage of the political adventure of the past ten years, as an echo of the heavy trends mentioned above. A decisive turn was taken from a vision anchored on the destiny of “American backyard” or “peripheral” wagon tied to globalisation, under the model of liberal integration, towards a horizon where an attempt is made to collectively rise to the status of actor in the multipolar world by building a regional bloc provided with a more comprehensive political field. The fact is that, unfortunately, globalisation does not make concessions to communities that remain alone or follow roads that are too conformist with the dominant order. In this regard, the reactivation of the imaginary of a great continental project by social forces, the establishment of different formats of regional institutionalisation and the revival of multilateralism as priority method to treat transnational issues are three gestures of the same movement.
In practice, the architecture of integration has clearly intensified, raising in an unprecedented way the framework for a new construction of unities and independence. But its agenda continues to be defined by the correlations of interests and forces spread across a mosaic of national sovereignties with widely varying levels of maturity, dependence and ideological colours. The Argentine process, with the social mobilisation that manages to break the free trade agreement of the Americas devised by neoconservatives of the United States from 1995 to 2005, and then with its active role in repositioning the MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) and in the creation of the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and Banco del Sur, is a genetic link of this institutionality that bets on constitutive dynamics of regional citizenship.
Three elements should be noted in the making of this integration process with “constitutive vocation” considering the broader lessons they can provide in relation to governance. First, it has not followed any established institutional or theoretical model. In fact, it has been and remains generally under-theorised and has been sustained especially by political decisions released “from the top”, from the summit of states, based on a strong tolerance of imaginaries among several leaders, coming from social and popular struggles, as criticism of the mechanisms of cooperation based on deregulation and free trade. The resurgence of this Latin Americanism has no equivalent in terms of regionalisation of interdependences, except for the historical and cultural background and in terms of human mobility, and to some extent the economic exchanges between the more industrialised countries (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina) . The reality is that the high-level political momentum, particularly in times of crisis, is allowing to enliven an integration architecture resting on multilateral structures still heavily formatted by the legal, cultural and economic matrix inherited from the neoliberal cycle (bilateral investment treaties, commercial export matrix, migration frictions, underdevelopment of border areas). This agility at the summit of the states, accompanied at the base by numerous social and trade union movements, provided several times the capacity to react in situations of crisis and unprecedented experiences of diplomatic resolution of external conflicts.
Second, as a result of the economic recession of 2008 and its increasingly net impact on economics based on primary products (Brazil) of external dependence, the gains of densifying the matrix of common interests took the initiative against the temptation to negotiate bilaterally with the traditional powers . This “rediscovery” of mutual interests strengthened the regional bloc politically in a hostile geopolitical context where new pressures and strategies of balkanisation by conservative industrial sectors and trading powers appear in the opposite direction, first from the United States and the European Union . Some examples of this are the Pacific Alliance formed in 2011, the current proliferation of proposals of free trade agreements and the political destabilisation in Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina involving the media and business conglomerates. These strategies shut member countries up in the resolution of internal affairs, create lines of tension and ultimately contribute to slow down the integration movement. Against this, the challenge is not to let the dynamism of integration rest on institutional inertias, stimulate the definition of an agenda of social mobilisations and citizen proposals and continue to amplify the matrix of common interests towards a regional space strengthening its political and endogenous coherences.
Finally, in line with the above, the emergence of China, Russia and BRICS, as a manifestation of a great movement of multipolar rebalancing of power and wealth (though still without changing the rules of world order), represents a new regional strategic horizon in line with the views of development conveyed by the “Beijing Consensus”. The investment and cooperation agreements with China and Russia are greater today than those with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. In fact, they displace the centrality of the cooperation mechanisms constructed around international financial institutions. Although this horizon does not necessarily cause a qualitative change in the multilateral framework of cooperation, nevertheless it creates a turning point by supporting infrastructure projects conducive to the creation of value at regional level, generating multiple tools for investment and trading of commodities, without arbitrarily conditioning national sovereignties. With the recent activation of Banco del Sur, which should promote a diversification of the production structure and reduce dependencies, this trend will favour a model of integration structurally away from the criteria of the “Washington Consensus”.
Transgressive return of the rule of law and the political
The return of the political and the recovery of morality, institutions, democracy and identity on the material basis of a reaffirmation of social rights and the reactivation of a regulatory state probably represent one of the most inspiring battles of the Argentine experience. The change of paradigm, which began in 2003 after an episode of intensification of popular struggles and the entry through the small electoral door of the Frente para la Victoria, somehow gains a transgressive momentum in the resistance of the “laboratory of neoliberal conversion” of previous decades. The facets of this conversion are unfortunately known worldwide, both in the North and in the South: a parliamentary democracy and representative bodies emptied of their content by an economic aristocracy brought together for global finance; the political fossilisation of traditional parties and the loss of legitimacy of the institutional system; over-indebtedness, economic strangulation, the emergence of mafia networks and massive capital flight; the sacrifice of public assets and social rights in the name of austerity and privatisation policies; deindustrialisation, poverty and endemic unemployment; popular indignation, resentment and historical impunity of state terrorism, etc.
Here and elsewhere, the radicalisation of citizen and popular mobilizations is the response to the debacle and the igniting spark. But the Argentine and Latin American experiences tell us that it is possible to back up the slope using with courage the traditional political means, and that it is necessary, today more than ever, given the urgency to create alternatives to neoliberalism, to “change society taking power” (without upsetting John Holloway and the alter-globalisation friends), or at least restore politics as a central tool for transformation and institution of society. In substance, Argentines have contributed a democratising and transformative response, establishing a new rule of law, to the brutal pressure of a globalised economy, inseparable from a political culture that represents a part of the liberation struggles of the previous decades and more widely of the last century. Although the outcome of this adventure is uncertain and unfinished—some authors highlight the weakening of the Latin American democratic wave that started at the end of the dictatorships—this response is a “comprehensive” political adventure, accompanied by a resignification, and more deeply by a rechannelling of the political experience, which has not yet spread fully within society. This is an extremely valuable contribution in the geopolitical landscape that will certainly be threatened by the proliferation of regressive, fundamentalist and authoritarian reactions, with the rise of systemic crises and increased inequality. In this case, we will only point out some significant issues to clarify the post neoliberal governance perspectives.
Open gaps in the tenets of orthodox economics and development
First of all, by recreating a material base of virtuous growth based on the reaffirmation of rights (to work, minimum wage, collective bargaining, social protection, education, communication, human mobility, memory and justice, etc.) and promoting the creation of six million jobs since 2003 with an articulated set of social redistribution policies, with effects shown by most development indicators , Argentina makes a significant contribution to deconstruct the theories of trickle down, structural adjustment, “growth without development” and in a sense national protectionism or authoritarian capitalism (that is, development incompatible with democracy). This counter-hegemonic turn—partly similar to the Bolivian, Venezuelan and Brazilian experiences—consisted of a reorientation of the economic system towards a “neo-Keynesian” logic of state refinancing, reinvigoration of the industry and the real economy and active promotion of social mobility, employment and domestic demand. Redistribution rises to the status of prior factor concomitant with development to define a model of “growth with social inclusion”. Although there is still a long way to go to deeply change the matrix of economy concentration and externalization and to restrict the contradictory lightening with the sector of multinational investors, the fact remains that this dynamic has been implemented on the basis of an active conditioning of capital expansion by means of state regulation (nationalisation of several strategic sectors, reform of legal frameworks), support for the diversification of production (in particular, in relation to small and medium enterprises), boosting of domestic savings and use of fiscal surpluses. In relation to other national experiences under the domino effect of the global recession of 2008, these actions have contributed to divert the international debate on inequality and social inclusion, echoing the work of a group of intellectuals who have highlighted the originality of the Argentine experience (Piketty, Stiglitz, Krugman, Galbraith, Kliksberg, Sen, etc.). Economists recognise that there is a change in perception within multilateral spaces, for the time being expressed in a rhetoric review and “new narratives” within financial institutions. But it is found that this superficial change still hides the warlike practice of “business as usual”, while the financial shock wave of 2008 continues its course.
Debt reduction and confrontation with hyper-speculative sectors
Second focus point: deb reduction , confrontation with the most speculative segments of global finance and installation of a debate about a fair and efficient system of sovereign debt restructuring. The historic restructuring of 93 % of Argentina’s sovereign debt, mainly with the IMF and the Paris Club , allowed to regain control of national policies after a very long period of chronic indebtedness. In turn, this triggered a fierce battle with the hyper-speculative segments of international finance (“vulture” funds), the emergence of which in the heyday of neoliberal deregulation in the 1990s generated an increase in the number of legal “attacks” against indebted economies, in both North and South. Without much international solidarity and the sovereign position of the national Executive and the social movements, this blockade legally anchored in the jurisdiction of the State of New York  would have eliminated ten years of rebuilding the financial stability and created a dangerous precedent for other sovereign debt negotiations. This pressure on the debt is today one of the iron arms between the interests of the transnational financial sectors associated with local oligarchic actors and the popular interests from now on consolidated for the recovery of the rule of law. Other frictions have occurred and will continue to operate regionally in the field of capital flight , devaluation of the investment risk by international financial rating agencies, manipulation of prices and value chains, money market speculation, conditioning of public opinion through the media, etc. Civil society and diplomatic services have appreciated this experience as far as possible within the framework of the G20, the G77, the IMF, social summits, the UN agencies and transnational political networks. Finally, a strategy of alliance associated with the United Nations could see the light of day and institutionalise the proposal for a fair and efficient system of sovereign debt restructuring. The same effort to reverse the voices of international diplomacy was driven by Ecuador on the issue of the regulation of transnational corporations from the perspective of rights (it is interesting to see that these initiatives have led some analysts to identify a country circle with a strong potential influence on the multilateral state, going back to the concept of swing states).
A mobilising political subject that enters a new stage of transformation
Finally, the ruptures just described have presumed a political subject able to stand up to the time and power relations. Its strength is inseparable from the introduction of a new mobilising imaginary, based on denying an “end of history” applied by the neoliberal hegemony, on an ideal of historical reparation, social justice and fight against inequality. As it came into office in 2003 with fragile popular support, and more because of a setback with electoral impact than by the emergence of a new alternative power, the Frente para la Victoria approached its imaginary to gradually flesh it out in a first term of government in a “coalition” political front, and after with a clearer affirmation of a new political dynamic breaking with the initial alliances. This dynamic, by the way poorly analysed by the networks of the internationalist left, has controversial ties to traditional political apparatuses but it reactivates a generational renewal with the addition of a militant youth and mainly contributes to break with the logic of the parties enclosed within their territorial weakness and their inability to respond to social convulsions.
Three election cycles allow to make a more objective measurement of the effects of these original political dynamics. On the one hand, a significant number of structural changes, a high degree of re-politicisation and social activism, the creation of a new space of unity with popular sectors and various ideological currents. On the other hand, the reactivation of a cultural and ideological battle, the clearer visibility of the architecture of factual powers, the recovery of social peace and institutional legitimacy. While the movement does not have the breadth of a new “moral and cultural hegemony”, as it is the case of Bolivia, it has now reached a level of territorial mobilisation, programmatic centrality, internal containment of political discussions and historic leadership that allows it to project itself into a new cycle of transformation of medium intensity.
The broad outlines of this new stage bring us to the limits and lessons learned from the previous cycle. Maintaining the achievements and the transformation spirit without lowering the guard or underestimating the opponent, at the risk of retreat. The experience of Brazil and Paraguay (under President Fernando Lugo) illustrate the risks of a partial implementation of structural reforms, of the inertia of political parties, the dangerous game of concessions and loss of social bases.
Adapting the political structure to social change and advancing with the social groups that are culturally and socially caught in the previous stages, without tools available to grasp the changes or be part of the social adventure. The rise of Argentina’s middle class has been one of the most dynamic in Latin America during the last decade (48 % of the current population, according to the World Bank). This new middle class will generate new social demands, often vague and contradictory, that will require maintaining significant intellectual, cultural and political mobility in political spaces.
Deepening the model of social justice and historical reparation, going beyond the mechanisms of redistribution and social inclusion correlated to growth and depredation of natural resources. This equation appeals to a new definition of social justice, extended to a context of democratic debate that has moved forward within society. Beyond the ideological battle over public power, there is a clearer perception of the structural limits of the state and of the conceptual, legal and economic matrix to include all social groups in the system of value creation and in the representative system. This involves laying the foundations for a genuine social, popular and durable economy, not relegated to the status of an economy supplementary to the international markets, and radicalising the forms of democratic participation. To do this, social movements will act as a locomotive to advance the conceptual debate and bring new initiatives forward.
 In Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Guyana, Suriname and Uruguay, 80% of exports are raw materials (source: IDB 2015). In 2014, interregional trade between Brazil and the members of Mercosur increased to 10 % of Brazilian foreign trade (source: IDB).
 This logic eventually sabotaged the Andean Community of Nations.
 See e.g. the Raw Materials Initiative of the European Union.
 See UNDP data: http://www.ar.undp.org/content/argentina/es/home/mdgoverview/overview/mdg1.html.
 Its record level reached 153.6 % of GDP in 2002.
 The sovereign debt fell from 156 % of GDP in 2002 to 45 % in 2013 (the McKinsey Global Institute assesses the current overall debt at 286 % of the world GDP).
 The State of New York presently concentrates the legal frameworks of 49 % of the sovereign debt securities worldwide.
 Argentina is officially the Latin American champion next to Venezuela with nearly 10 % of assets in the annual volume of foreign trade.