Market Liberalizations and Emigration from Latin America: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Market Liberalizations and Emigration from Latin America

1st Edition

By Jon Jonakin


264 pages

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Hardback: 9781138569287
pub: 2017-11-06
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Market Liberalizations and Emigration From Latin America provides a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the era of liberalization in Latin America, focusing in particular on labor markets and emigration from the region. Starting in 1980, liberalization in Latin America was expected to improve market functioning, efficiency, and welfare. Instead, it yielded slower growth, unexpectedly high levels of unemployment and income inequality, flat or falling wages, an increase in non-tradeable (service sector) and informal activity, and, finally, waves of emigration from Mexico, Central America, and Ecuador, among other countries. This book provides a heterodox narrative explanation of why the orthodox economic model that underwrote the standard ‘trickle-down’ account served more to obscure and obfuscate than to explain and clarify the state-of-affairs.

The book investigates the impact of the global-scale liberalizations of markets for goods and physical and finance capital and the mere national-scale liberalization of regional labor markets, arguing that these asymmetric liberalizations, together, resulted in labor market failure and contributed in turn to the subsequent, undocumented migrant flow. The ultimate effect of the skewed scale of market liberalizations in Latin America disproportionately benefited capital at the expense of labor. Market Liberalizations and Emigration From Latin America will be of interest to researchers of economics and development in Latin America.


"Market Liberalizations deftly dismantles the technocratic mystifications of neoliberal ideology to expose the invisible hand around workers’ throats. This historically-grounded sharp and witty exposé of the fallacies of "free" trade, which liberalizes global flows of capital and goods while repressing labor mobility, illuminates today’s staggering global inequality and rising xenophobia."Richard Stahler-Sholk, Professor of Political Science, Eastern Michigan University, USA

"A form of globalization that privileged capital over labor movements was always going to cause trouble. Just how problematic is shown in this insightful book about Latin America by Jon Jonakin, where the links between liberalization, privatization and labor emigration in the last three decades are carefully explored."Victor Bulmer-Thomas, Honorary Professor, Institute of the Americas, University College London, UK

"Jonakin takes complex economic theories and processes and translates them into a clear, highly readable narrative that gets right to the heart of current contradictions and paradoxes. Market Liberalizations offers a powerful call for a new, heterodox approach focused on re-regulation, industrial policy, national safety nets, and the real freedom to choose, or to refrain from, emigration."Rose Spalding, Professor, Political Science and Vincent dePaul Professor, DePaul University, USA

"Market Liberalizations and Emigration from Latin America offers an important angle of analysis to our knowledge of contemporary immigration. Too much of our discussion is based on a simplistic understanding of the "pull" rather than the "push" factors driving migration. Jonakin takes orthodox economics to task in its theoretical assumptions and practical consequences. Market Liberalizations is a must read for those interested in immigration and more broadly in neoliberal globalization."Mae Ngai, Professor of History, Columbia University, USA, author of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

"Jonakin’s book describes in detail how the ‘free trade’ policies instituted in the 1980s and 1990s in Latin America favoured capital over labour and the devastating effects these policies had on economic and social development. It lays bare the fictional assumptions of the orthodox trade model, while exposing the economics profession’s double standard with respect to the free movement of labour. An important book that should be required reading for policymakers in both the North and South."Janine Berg, Senior Economist, International Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland

"This well-written and engaging volume deftly dissects how the adoption of market liberalization policies since the 1980s has contributed to worsening, rather than alleviating, the economic woes of Latin America. Combining cogent theoretical critiques, massive empirical evidence, and in-depth case studies, Jon Jonakin deconstructs the conventional arguments for orthodox or ‘Washington Consensus’ policies and demonstrates how those policies usually achieved the opposite of their stated intentions."Robert A. Blecker, Professor of Economics, American University, Washington DC, USA

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Troubled Economic Narratives in a Time of ‘Globalization’

Chapter 2: Through the Looking Glass: Structural Change and Latin America’s Refracted Reality

Chapter 3: Shrinking Options While Enthusing About ‘Choice’: Labor Market Deregulation, Informality, and Emigrant Exodus

Chapter 4: The Global Liberalization That Went Missing: Undocumented Immigration and A Slew of Troubled Narratives

Chapter 5: Mexico: Liberalization’s Poster Child That Emigrated

Chapter 6: The Contradictions and Consequences of Market Liberalizations in ‘Petro-States’: the Evolutions of Venezuela and Ecuador

Chapter 7: Succumbing to Ideology: Asymmetric Rules, Disarticulated Structures, and Faux Choices

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Latin American Development

The series features innovative and original research on Latin American development from scholars both within and outside of Latin America. It particularly promotes comparative and interdisciplinary research targeted at a global readership.

In terms of theory and method, rather than basing itself on any one orthodoxy, the series draws broadly on the tool kit of the social sciences in general, emphasizing comparison, the analysis of the structure and processes, and the application of qualitative and quantitative methods.

The series welcomes submissions from established and junior authors on cutting-edge and high-level research on key topics that feature in global news and public debate. To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Helena Hurd (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries