Friday, December 11, 2015

Binary Thinking About Latin America

The presidential election in Argentina and legislative elections in Venezuela have unleashed a torrent of low-quality analysis, the likes of which we haven't seen in years (maybe not since the 2009 Honduran coup). Front and center is the persistence of binary thinking. I used to criticize the Bush administration for its insistence on Cold War/GWOT binary perceptions of good guy/bad guy and capitalist/communist, but it is apparently deeply embedded universally.

Thus, we have left/right, which is painfully inadequate for understanding what's going on in Latin America. But we also have populist/non-populist; pro-U.S./anti-U.S, and others.

And this is so very deeply embedded, even across the ideological spectrum. So we even have self-proclaimed socialists analyzing the elections, and coming up with yet another: left/pseudo-left.

Pseudo-left organization, both in Latin America and internationally, promoted Chavez’s “Bolivarian revolution” as some new road to socialism. These political elements, whose politics reflect the interests of more privileged layers of the middle class, were attracted to chavismo precisely because it represented not an independent movement of the working class from below, but rather a bourgeois movement that subordinated the workers to a charismatic “comandante,” whose policies were directed at mediating the explosive class struggle in Venezuela.

From a psychological perspective, it's interesting that everybody seems to buy into the binary way of thinking. People like heuristics. It represents an easy shortcut people can use that makes complicated situations appear simple and perhaps therefore also easier to solve.

The problem, of course, is that it's all bullshit. If forced to apply a binary category to these elections, the only one that really works is incumbent/challenger. But the prevailing categories are all rooted in ideology, which of course represents another simplistic shortcut people use to understand the crazy and complex world around them.

In short, ideological binary thinking pretty much gums up the works. Using it makes you understand the situation less and greatly increases the chances that you will not accurately assess it (e.g. why we saw the electoral outcomes in Argentina and Venezuela). If applied by the winners themselves, it will means screwing up by overestimating how ideological the votes were.


shah8 4:30 PM  

What people never talk about enough, are the consequences of brain drain, some of which happens as part of affirmative policy on the part of Western states.

For example, I don't really think Chavism or chavista ideology or paranoia-mongering are at the source of Venezuela's troubles. I tend to think the right wing's refusal to cater to anyone but their own set is closest to the core of things. More than that, that the dynamics of both phenomenons is intrinsically related to the dramatic deficit of people who know what they are doing in Venezuela, in all sorts of occupations.

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