Neoliberal Forms of Capital and The Rise of Social Movement Partyism in Central America


  • Paul Almeida University of California, Merced



Popular Resistance, Neoliberalism, Social movement Partyism, Central America, Global Capitalism


Historical shifts in global economic formations shape the strategies of resistance movements in the global South. Neoliberal forms of economic development over the past thirty years in Central America have weakened traditional actors sponsoring popular mobilization such as labor unions and rural cooperatives. At the same time, the free market reforms produced new threats to economic livelihood and well-being throughout the region. The neoliberal measures that have generated the greatest levels of mass discontent include rising prices, privatization, labor flexibility laws, mining projects, and free trade. This article analyzes the role of emerging anti-neoliberal political parties in alliance with popular movements in Central America. Countries with already existing strong anti-systemic parties in the initial phases of the global turn to neoliberalism in the late twentieth century resulted in more efficacious manifestations of social movement partyism in the twenty-first century resisting free market globalization.


Abouharb, M. Rodwan., and David Cingranelli. 2007. Human Rights and Structural Adjustment.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Agartan, Tuba, Woo-Young Choi, and Tu Huynh. 2008. “The transformation of the capitalist world: 1750-1850.” Pp. 10-49 in W. Martin, ed., Making Waves: Worldwide Social Movements, 1750-2005. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

Allison, Michael. 2006. “The Transition from Armed Opposition to Electoral Opposition in Central America.” Latin American Politics and Society 48(4): 137-162.

Allison, Michael and Alberto Martin Alvarez. 2012. “Unity and Disunity in the FMLN.” Latin American Politics and Society 54(4): 89-118.

Almeida, Paul D. 2014. Mobilizing Democracy: Globalization and Citizen Protest. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

____. 2012. “Subnational Opposition to Globalization.” Social Forces 90(4): 1051-1072.

____. 2010. “Social Movement Partyism: Collective Action and Political Parties.” Pp. 170-196 in N. Van Dyke and H. McCammon, eds., Strategic Alliances: New Studies of Social Movement Coalitions. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

____. 2008. “The Sequencing of Success: Organizing Templates and Neoliberal Policy Outcomes.” Mobilization 13(2): 165-187.

____. 2007. “Defensive Mobilization: Popular Movements against Economic Adjustment Policies in Latin America.” Latin American Perspectives 34(3): 123-139.

____. 2006. “Social Movement Unionism, Social Movement Partyism, and Policy Outcomes.” Pp. 57-73 in H. Johnston and P. Almeida, eds., Latin American Social Movements: Globalization, Democratization, and Transnational Networks. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Almeida, Paul D. and Erica Walker. 2007. “El Avance de la Globalización Neoliberal: Una Comparación de Tres Campañas de Movimientos Populares en Centroamérica.” Revista Centroamericana de Ciencias Sociales 4(1): 51-76.

Alvarenga Venutolo, Patricia Ana. 2005. Los ciudadanos y el estado de bienestar: Costa Rica en la segunda mitad del siglo XX. San José: Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica.

Arrighi, Giovanni,Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein 1989. Anti-Systemic Movements. London: Verso.

Babb, Sarah. 2009. Behind the Development Banks: Washington Politics, World Poverty, and the Wealth of Nations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bello, Walden. 2007. "The post Washington Dissensus." Focus on Trade 132.

Block, Fred and Margaret Somers. 2014. The Power of Market Fundamentalism : Karl Polanyi's Critique. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bob, Clifford. 2005. The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media, and International Activism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brockett, Charles. 1998. Land, Power, and Poverty: Agrarian Transformation and Political

Conflict in Central America. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Bull, Benedicte. 2005. Aid, Power, and Privatization: The Politics of Telecommunication Reform in Central America. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Bulmer-Thomas, Victor. 1987. The Political Economy of Central America since 1920. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bush, Caleb. 2008. “Reformers and Revolutionaries: The Rise of Anti-Systemic Movements and the Paradox of Power, 1848-1917.” Pp. 50-81 in W. Martin, ed., Making Waves: Worldwide Social Movements, 1750-2005. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

Chase-Dunn, Christopher. 2006. “Globalization: A World System Perspective.” Pp. 79–105 in

C. Chase-Dunn and S. Babones, eds, Global Social Change: Historical and Comparative Perspectives. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Cohn, Samuel. 2012. Employment and Development under Globalization: State and Economy

in Brazil. London: Palgrave.

Diani, Mario and Maria Kousis. 2014. “The Duality of Claims and Events: The Greek Campaign against Troika’s Memoranda and Austerity, 2010-2012.” Mobilization 19(4): 387 -404.

Edelman, Marc. 1999. Peasants against Globalization. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Enríquez, Laura. 2010. Reactions to the Market: Small Farmers in the Economic Reshaping of Nicaragua, Cuba, Russia, and China. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Estrada, Oscar. 2012. Honduras: Crónicas del golpe de Estado y Resistencia. Brimfield, MA: Casasola Editores.

Flores Macías, Gustavo. 2012. After Neoliberalism?: The Left and Economic Reforms in Latin

America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Foran, John. 2005. Taking Power: On the Origins of Third World Revolutions. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Frajman, Eduardo. 2009. Information and Values in Popular Protests: Costa Rica in 2000. Bulletin of Latin American Research 28(1): 44-62.

Gleijeses, Piero. 1991. Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944–1954. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Goodale, Mark and Nancy Postero. Eds. 2013. Neoliberalism Interrupted: Social Change and Contested Governance in Contemporary Latin America. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Gunder Frank, Andre and Marta Fuentes. 1994. “On Studying the Cycles in Social Movements.” Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change 17: 173-196.

Huber, Evelyne, and John Stephens. Democracy and the Left: Policy and Inequality in Latin America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hulme, David, and Michael Edwards. Eds. 1997. NGOs, States and Donors: Too Close for Comfort. London: St. Martins.

Huntington, Samuel P. 1991. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Jackson, Jeffrey T. 2005. The globalizers: development workers in action. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kousis, Maria. 2014. “The Transnational Dimension of the Greek Protest Campaign against

Troika Memoranda and Austerity Policies, 2010-12.” In D. della Porta and A. Mattoni (eds) Spreading Protests in Social Movements of the Crisis, Colchester: ECPR Press.

Lehoucq, Fabrice. 2012. The Politics of Modern Central America: Civil War, Democratization, and Underdevelopment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

____. 2007. Policymaking, parties and institutions in democratic Costa Rica. Mexico City: Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas.

Levitsky, Steven, and Kenneth Roberts. 2011. “Introduction: Latin America’s ‘Left

Turn’: A Framework for Analysis,” in The Resurgence of the Latin American Left, 1–30.

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Markoff, John and Amy White. 2009. “The Global Wave of Democratization.” Pp. 55-73 in Christian W. Haerpfer, Ronald Inglehart, Chris Welzel and Patrick Bernhagen, eds.,

Democratization in a Globalized World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marti Puig, Salvador. 2015. “Social Movements in Nicaragua (1979-2014): an Exceptional Case.” In P. Almeida and A. Cordero. Eds. Handbook of Social Movements across Latin America. New York: Springer.

Martin, William. 2008. “Conclusion: World Movement Waves and World Transformations.” Pp.168-180 in W. Martin, ed., Making Waves: Worldwide Social Movements, 1750-2005. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

Nepstad, Sharon Erickson. 2011. Nonviolent Revolutions: Civil Resistance in the Late Twentieth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pallister, Kevin. 2013. “Why No Mayan Party? Indigenous Movements and National Politics in Guatemala. Latin American Politics and Society 55(3): 117-138.

Prevost, Gary, Carlos Oliva Campos, and Harry Vanden, eds. 2012. Social Movements and Leftist Governments in Latin America: Confrontation or Co-optation? London: Zed.

Raventos, Ciska. 2013. “ ‘My Heart Says No’: Political Experiences of the Struggle against

CAFTA-DR in Costa Rica.” In J. Burrell and E. Moodie, eds., Central America in the

New Millennium: Living Transition and Reimagining Democracy, 80–95. New York:


Robinson, William. 2003. Transnational Conflicts: Central America, Social Change, and Globalization. London: Verso.

____. 2006. “Promoting Polyarchy in Latin America: The Oxymoron of "Market Democracy."” In (eds.) Eric Hershberg and Fred Rosen Latin America After Neoliberalism. New York: The New Press.

Schock, Kurt, 2005. Unarmed Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Shefner, Jon and Julie Stewart. 2011. “Neoliberalism, Grievances and Democratization: An Exploration of the Role of Material Hardships in Shaping Mexico Democratic Transition.” Journal of World Systems Research 17(2): 353-378.

Shefner, Jon, George Pasdirtz, and Cory Blad. 2006. “Austerity Protests and Social Immiseration: Evidence from Mexico and Argentina”. In Latin American Social Movements, edited by Hank Johnston and Paul Almeida. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Silva, Eduardo. 2012. “Exchange Rising? Karl Polanyi and Contentious Politics in Contemporary Latin America. Latin American Politics and Society 54(3): 1-32.

Silver, Beverly. 2003. Forces of Labor: Workers’ Movements and Globalization since 1870.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, Jackie, and Dawn Wiest. 2012. Social Movements in the World System: The Politics of

Crisis and Transformation. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Sosa, Eugenio. 2010. La protesta social en Honduras: del ajuste al golpe de estado. Tegucigalpa: Editorial Guaymuras.

Sosa Iglesias, José Eugenio. 2014. “Honduras: Entre criminalidad, enfrentamiento mediático, protesta social y resultados electorales cuestionados.” Revista de Ciencia Política 34(1): 203 – 219.

Spalding, Rose. 2014. Contesting Trade in Central America: Market Reform and Resistance. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Subramaniam, Mangala. 2015. “Introduction: States and Social Movements in the Modern World-System” Journal of World System Research.

Subramaniam, Mangala. 2007. “NGOs and Resources in the Construction of Intellectual Realms: Cases from India” Critical Sociology 33 (3): 551-73.

Udayagiri, Mridula, and John Walton. 2003. "Global transformation and local counter movements: the prospects for democracy under neoliberalism." International Journal of Comparative Sociology 44(4): 309-343.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1990. “Antisystemic Movements: History and Dilemmas.” Pp. 13-53 in S. Amin, G. Arrighi, A. Gunder Frank, and I. Wallerstein, eds., Transforming the Revolution: Social Movements and the World System. New York: Monthly Review Press.

____. 2014. “Anti-systemic Movements, Yesterday and Today.” Journal of World Systems Research 20(2):158-172.

Walton, John, and Charles Ragin. 1990. “Global and National Sources of Political

Protest: Third World Responses to the Debt Crisis.” American Sociological

Review 55(6): 876–91.

Yagenova, Simona. 2015. “Guatemalan social movements: From the peace process to a new cycle of popular struggle, (1996-2013).” In P. Almeida and A. Cordero, eds. Handbook of Latin American Social Movements. New York: Springer.




How to Cite

Almeida, P. (2015). Neoliberal Forms of Capital and The Rise of Social Movement Partyism in Central America. Journal of World-Systems Research, 21(1), 8–24.



States and Social Movements in the Modern World-System