In the wake of its most recent economic crisis, Argentina has just signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The agreement will reinforce the austerity measures introduced by centre/right president, Mauricio Macri, since 2015. Most observers blame Argentine populism for the country’s current economic debacle and urge strict austerity, institutional reform, and an end to corruption as the solution. However, such measures are not likely to solve much because they do not address the root cause of populism. Understanding the enormous reliance of populism is key since the most pessimistic of observers suggest that the current Argentine crisis may be the harbinger of worsening economic and (political) troubles in the region and beyond.
This week and last, a number of my students asked me about me how and why I became interested in development issues, in general, and Latin America, in particular. These enquires forced me to think back to those heady days of the 1960s when we all thought that the world could be changed for the better. It also got me to thinking about the ways in which both popular conceptions and academic thinking about social injustice and the operation of the world economy has changed over the last forty years—despite the fact that the reality may not have changed all that much.