Interwar Constitutionalism and the Remaking of Social Policy in Latin America

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: Booth 51
Oral Presentation
Manuel BASTIAS SAAVEDRA , Institute for History and Social Sciences, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
The establishment of the 20th century welfare regimes has often been viewed as an outcome of continuous processes of national policy implementation conditioned by local levels of economic development, democracy, and position in regional influence systems. This paper concentrates on a normative shift that has become a blind spot in the comparative literature of the welfare State. Specifically, this paper seeks to shed light on the influence of a constitutional reform movement that took place across Europe and Latin America in the Interwar period. The Mexican Constitution of 1917, the Soviet Constitution of 1918, and the Weimar Constitution of 1919 established the recognition of social and economic rights as fundamental rights of the individual. This idea travelled rapidly across Europe and spread towards Latin America over the next decades. I argue that this constitutional movement underpinned the 'universalist' expansion of social policy that characterized the post-war Welfare State by giving the right to welfare the status of an individual right. Empirically, this paper traces how the Interwar constitutional movement took root in Chile (1925) and Brazil (1934), and how this in turn influenced social policy outcomes in both countries. In its core, by integrating the classical literature on historical and comparative social policy and research on comparative constitutional reform, this is a comprehensive multidisciplinary project that combines a global historical approach with sociological and legal research.