Defensas sociales contra el neoliberalismo: la desmercantilización y la política social en la Argentina de la post-convertibilidad. La urgente actualidad de Karl Polanyi

Nora Britos

EMES Conferences Selected Papers Series, ECSP-P12-11.

Argentina’s recent experience may be considered a fruitful field of observation,  Karl Polanyi’s contributions being central for understanding the dynamics of transformation to neoliberalism. In this contribution we will refer to some change processes following the crisis that started in December 2001, which was the most severe crisis that Argentina has experienced  since the Second World War, as Robert Boyer well said (Boyer 2003).

The focus of the analysis will be placed on social policy understood as part of a constellation of state interventions which constitute a specific form of societal defence against markets and their disruptive functioning; this defence is based on this intervention operating predominantly through processes of commodification. As far as the methodology is concerned, we will propose a discussion on the concept of commodification and its link with social policy. Afterwards, we will present two major innovations from Argentina post convertibility that are oriented in the direction of an extension of the commodification and of the advancing of the social rights: the universalization of the pension coverage and the universal child allowance. These two measures directly confront with the neoliberal paradigm in social policy in force during the convertibility, oriented towards the individual capitalization of the pension funds and their for-profit administration and the direct and geographic targeting of social protection.

Finally, we will point out some emerging discussion areas in which decommodification is (not only in Argentina but in the region) in the center of the debate regarding the ways of organizing social life in many complex transformation processes at the global, regional and national level. These highlight signs of increasing tension between the new forms of expression of the capitalist production (and in particular, of the extreme exploitation forms of labor and land – fictitious commodities par excellence) and the national welfare arrangements, as well as the regional and international development of the protective mechanisms of the social rights of the population against the economic developments.

These welfarist arrangements and protective mechanisms configure nuclei of the political struggles against neoliberalism at local and regional level.

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