This is an elite-level academic work (with deep knowledge and time spent in field research) that goes a long way in understanding the attribution issue of why publics and the electorate across the world at times choose left- versus right-wing alternatives when facing similar economic crises and inequality.
Social polarization has roiled neoliberal political establishments but has rarely culminated in electoral victories for anticapitalist outsiders. Instead, outsiders who accommodate capitalists often prevail. Capitalist Outsiders revisits celebrated exemplars of Latin American populism in Mexico and Venezuela to shed light on this phenomenon. It reveals how anticorruption campaigns boosted Mexico’s neoliberal-era capitalist outsider by drowning out salacious corporate scandals; how Venezuela’s apparently enlightened capitalist outsiders of the 1940s relied on segregationist, punitive labor relations; and how corporate insiders of Venezuela’s neoliberal political establishment unwittingly validated the anticapitalist Hugo Chávez as the true outsider. It weaves together these case studies to reveal an unlikely common origin for capitalist outsiders in both countries: their sequential insertion into global oil production and Mexico’s early twentieth-century radical oil workers. Capitalist Outsiders moves beyond cataloging “populist” traits and tactics or devising the institutions that might avert their rise. Instead, it specifies the distinct social bases of capitalist vs. anticapitalist outsiders.It exposes how a nation’s earlier incorporation into the capitalist world economy casts a long shadow over neoliberal-era outsider politics.
Capitalist Outsiders seeks to answer the question: Why do capitalist outsiders—outsiders to their nation’s political establishment who promise little change to their nation’s exiting capitalist order—win elections? To answer this question, Gates develops a sophisticated and nuanced comparative historical analysis of two otherwise similar moments of outsider electoral victories that followed periods of deep capitalist crisis reincorporation. It is a must-read for contemporary scholars of Latin American politics and development.
Capitalist Outsiders is an outstanding book that should be widely read. It asks big questions, is theoretically ambitious, and amply supported by evidence.
Leslie C. Gates is associate professor of sociology and faculty affiliate of the Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies Program at Binghamton University. She is past chair of the Section on Political Economy of the World-System and current secretary of the Marxist Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association.