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Usted está aquí: Inicio Acerca del CLAD Publicaciones Revista del CLAD Reforma y Democracia Artículos por número publicado 016, Febrero 2000 Is it Possible to Reform the State without Transforming the Society? Public Management Capacity and Social Policy in a Latin American Perspective
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Is it Possible to Reform the State without Transforming the Society? Public Management Capacity and Social Policy in a Latin American Perspective

Fabián Repetto

The processes of global transformation that took place in Latin America since the 1980's seem to have been weakly legitimated by the convergence of political democratization and some successful results in the realm of macroeconomic conditions. In this context, however, the contents and impact of the social policies implemented at the same time do not contribute to the consolidation of an institutional frame that might promote a virtuous mix of freedom, equity and efficiency. On the contrary, if the way in which the most urging social problems are being handled is not modified, there is a growing danger of reverting the weak political and economic achievements of the region in the nineties.

The hypothesis explored in this article is as follows. The changes that took place in Latin America strongly affected the institutional settings that had crystallized since the postwar period, and this is related to -and has an impact on- the changes in the map of relevant actors that interact in the process of public policy making. At the same time, the absence of favorable conditions has derived in a "minimalist" democratic governance as well as in a decreased capacity of public management in the social policy field. In order to reverse this vicious circle and move forward to a better performance of the social policy bureaucratic agencies of the democratic state and to the empowerment of the most deprived groups -particularly in terms of their participation in the process of decision making- a synergy is required between four preconditions: a) an institutional frame that promotes collective learning; b) a social-political leadership that has long term objectives as a priority; c) an ideological environment supporting public action; and d) the emergence of a "window of opportunity".

As a conclusion, we argue that the movement towards a better quality of democratic governance and to an increased capacity of public management in the field of social policies will depend on the way in which the conflicts associated with the "social question" emerging in the region after the structural reforms are politically dealt with.

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