Americas

Elites And Inequality In Latin America

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Inequality constitutes a broadly debated phenomenon in Latin America. Analysis conducted from spheres as diverse as education, health or housing –among others– frequently deduce that extreme disparities between social groups, affect both the access to and the quality of several goods and social services. As a result, large differences in opportunities and life experiences of citizens are outlined. Concurrently, the problems and weaknesses that distinguish societies affected by high levels of inequality are being identified with growing precision by recent international studies from various disciplines.1 When the consequences of inequality are explored, the task of detecting who are the disadvantaged seems to be more relevant than identifying who the benefitted are. Public debate, and particularly public policies, tend to assume – reasonably– that confronted against inequality, attention must be focused firstly on those worst situated in society. Inequality constitutes a relationship, however, not an individual condition. Such relationship entails that reference to a certain group of society –e.g. the disadvantaged– always involves implicit reference to another one –e.g. the benefitted. What happens, therefore, with those situated on the benefited end? Is it possible to talk about a group that benefits from inequality? Certainly, answering these questions goes beyond the possibilities of this work. Through them, however, some reflections regarding the issue of elites and inequality in Latin America can be drawn. To do that, the rest of this paper is organized as follows: firstly, background on regional income disparities will be presented; secondly, some precisions regarding the concept of elite will be provided; finally, three aspects of social and institutional organization will be analyzed briefly, in order to shed light both on the social position of elites in the region and their relationship with inequality. 

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Published in Political Reflection Magazine Vol. 4 No. 3

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