The panel analyses Latin America's relationship with liberalism and democracy and discusses the ways in which they have been understood as ideals and in practice.
When Latin American states emerged in the early nineteenth-century, the political philosophies, forms of government and political organization promoted by political elites and social actors involved some form of political and economic liberalism. Since independence, liberalism, whether applied successfully or not and usually in competition with a number of alternatives, has continuously been a referent for political and social actors in Latin America. Since the latter part of the twentieth-century neoliberal economic reforms have been embraced in some countries and rejected elsewhere. While political and economic liberalisms continue to be contested in what some describe as a post neoliberal era, liberalism remains part of the political culture. During the twentieth century the language of liberalism was, arguably, gradually replaced by democracy, seen as a marker of legitimate government. Democracy became an aspiration for Latin American governments. Although many governments in the region are perceived to be undemocratic, recent processes of change and civil-society organization are of interest to students of democracy. With regard to Latin America's relationship with democracy and liberalism; How have liberalism and democracy been understood and held up as ideals in different ways by various actors? In what circumstances have democracy and/ or liberalism fallen from grace? In what circumstances have they flourished? When did democracy come to be perceived as positive? What liberal philosophies have underpinned various regimes and political movements? Which features of government and social organization have been recognized as contributing to the existence of healthy democratic and/ or liberal institutions?