Tensions and Challenges: Interrelationships between Social Movements and Progressive Institutional Politics in Latin America


  • Lázaro M. Bacallao-Pino Coordination of Humanities Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean National Autonomous University of Mexico




Social Movements, Institutional Politics, Social Change, Autonomy


Latin America is the scenario of both significant counterhegemonic social movements and allegedly progressive (or even anti-capitalist) governments. The article aims to analyse the interrelationships between those collective agents and institutional politics in that scenario. Based on a general approach to some relevant social movements from the region, the positions of some particular Latin American governments and its leaders, as well as the examination of secondary sources, the text examines three main aspects that mediate the interrelationships between social movements and progressive institutional politics: the singular way in which social movements understand the sense of “politics”, the postures with respect to those collective agents assumed by those governments and the importance of autonomy for social movements. Social movements understand politics not as a separate dimension, but as a process of accumulation from sociability, in a continuity between social and political dimensions based on everyday experience of life, including this way social practices traditionally located outside established political institutions. Autonomy is a central value for those social actors, defining their position with regard to political parties, labour unions, churches and other traditional organisations. It is a value that crosses all their practices and the possibility of articulation to projects developed from governments, from the local level to the Latin American one. Against this, the vision on social movements of allegedly progressive (or even anti-capitalist) governments is mediated by the purpose of understanding them from the point of view of traditional political rules, and two significant attitudes towards those social agents are some purposes of criminalisation and co-optation.

Author Biography

Lázaro M. Bacallao-Pino, Coordination of Humanities Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean National Autonomous University of Mexico

Postdoctoral Researcher.Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean