What’s the Matter with South America?

Phelps, Edmund S.; Sola, Juan Vicente

The social and economic performance in South America continues to presence of some powerful values inimical to individual success and innovative pursuits has given rise to corporatism, lag behind most of the world. What accounts for the widespread governance failures in South America? At bottom, the problems in South America lie in the institutions and the values that led to those institutions.

There has been a rise throughout the continent of the social and economic system known as corporatism. The system operates to prevent political and economic competition in the name of social harmony and national unity. A result is an economy in which the business sector is enmeshed with the public sector and tied down by state restrictions. Yet, there is more to be said.

The institutions and practices there derive from the presence of some powerful values inimical to individual success and innovative pursuits. In the near-absence of the modernist values that sparked massive, grassroots innovation in Britain, America, Germany, France, and Sweden from the mid-nineteenth into the twentieth century, South Americans have remained wedded to a loosely defined traditionalism. A result is a continent in which only a minority of people are oriented toward engaging careers of creating or venturing and thus flourishing.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for ccs_working_paper_117_phelps_and_sola_final2.pdf ccs_working_paper_117_phelps_and_sola_final2.pdf application/pdf 428 KB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Center on Capitalism and Society
Center on Capitalism and Society Working Papers, 117
Published Here
January 12, 2022


Originally published as an op-ed in Project Syndicate on July 17, 2020.