Surviving neoliberalism : the welfare state in Chile and Costa Rica


A state's welfare policy priorities are more often than not dependent on the way in which the government views the dynamics between economic and· social issues. This means that a country's chosen path of development has immense effects on the way its social welfare system develops or survives. This last point carries a special urgency in the case of Latin America, a region that has a history of both social programs and economic hardship. The latter one has been compounded since the late 197Os and early 198Os by economic crises, increasing welfare costs and a changing world economy. These problems have, in turn, given rise to a new development theory (based on neoliberal economic thought) that stands in direct contrast to the traditional Latin American welfare state. The effects these new policies could have on the welfare state are interesting because the Latin American system has long been recognized as pioneering in both the Western Hemisphere and Third World countries. Whether countries will adopt the neoliberal development model is not an issue anymore - Chile began to implement the reforms in the mid-197Os and most other Latin American countries have since followed suit. The question now is whether the traditional welfare state, an important backbone Of popular support for governments will be able to survive the change in development strategies. If it does not survive, what answers will the new· development model have for the problems of poverty, unemployment, health care and other social ills? If it does survive, how will the social programs change to justify their existence in the face of reforms that aim at eliminating them? This paper will try to answer these questions by analyzing the case studies of Chile and Costa Rica, two countries that chose vastly different approaches to neoliberalism, under very different political regimes, but obtained similar results. As the study will show, the welfare state did not disappear, but it did change to meet the demands of the changing economic environment. In addition, the paper will show that just as the welfare state changed to suit the needs of neoliberalism, neoliberalism itself was also altered by the governments in charge of the reforms in order to suit their particular political needs and agendas.


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Thesis Completion





Wilson, Bruce M.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program

Political Science


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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