Published in Political Reflection Magazine Vol. 4 No. 3
Studying social inequality in Latin America requires a perspective that considers not only economic inequalities, but also those which have permanently affected the political sphere, and more specifically the consolidation of Latin American democracy. For a long time the tension between inequality and democracy has been disregarded. The questions addressed in this article imply a turn in our ways of understanding the meanings of high social equality. Higher levels of social equality cannot only be achieved by overcoming poverty through social or redistributive policies. To complement these policies, it is necessary to address the substantial ethical dimension of the principle of equality through a focus on social and political rights. The latter should be placed as the ultimate goal of any government that wishes to call itself democratic.
Research about social inequality in Latin America plays a key role in academic discussions, debates in international organizations and national governments´ programs. This is not only due to the fact that our region has been historically one of the most in unequal regions of the world.1 Besides, despite years of implementing social policies to overcome this problem, it is still complicated to find improvement indicators of social equality in most of our countries. In this context, international organizations such as the World Bank (WB), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) have done relevant research on social stratification, income, social inequality and economic growth. Since the late nineties these agencies have also provided many recommendations for public policies against poverty and the prevention of an intergenerational transfer of social inequality.2 Furthermore, they have been involved in the assessment of governmental policies on the aforementioned issues. In this context, a largely celebrated approach against inequality has focused on both direct or indirect income transfers aimed at the poorest strata of society.