Social Movements and Free-Market Capitalism in Latin America

Telecommunications Privatization and the Rise of Consumer Protest

By Sybil Rhodes

Subjects: Latin American Studies
Paperback : 9780791465981, 240 pages, June 2006
Hardcover : 9780791465974, 240 pages, October 2005

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Table of contents

List of Figures and Tables


Consumer Movements: New Social and Political Actors in Latin America

Explaining the Emergence of Consumer Movements: The “Crossed Wires” Effect of Democratization and Privatization

Authoritarian Privatization and Delayed Consumer Mobilization in Chile

The “Original Sins” of Privatization in Argentina

Contentious Consumer Mobilization in Argentina

The Gradual and Contested Privatization of Brazil’s “Telessauro”

“Post-Jurassic” Regulation and Contained Consumer Response

Democratizing Free-Market Capitalism: Consumers and the Codevelopment of “Voice” and “Exit” in Latin America


Explores how privatization of state-owned telephone companies led to new consumer movements in Latin America.


This innovative book examines how the privatization and reregulation of the telecommunications sectors in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil in the 1980s and 1990s provoked the rise of new consumer protest movements in Latin America. Sybil Rhodes looks at how hasty privatization of state-owned telephone companies led to short-term economic windfalls for multinational corporations but long-term instability due to consumer movements or the threat of them. Eventually these governments implemented consumer-friendly regulation as a belated form of damage control. In contrast, governments that privatized through more gradual, democratic processes were able to make credible commitments to their citizens as well as to their multinational investors by including regulatory regimes with consumer protection mechanisms built in. Rhodes illustrates how consumers—previously unacknowledged actors in studies of social movements, market reforms, and democratizations in and beyond Latin America—are indispensable to understanding the political and social implications of these broad global trends.

Sybil Rhodes is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Western Michigan University.