During their transition towards a market economy, emerging Latin American countries worked on restructuring their corporatist social welfare systems inherited from the past. This period was marked by controversy – as much over both the way problems were formulated as the most appropriate policies to be adopted. International Epistemic communities, supported by large organizations such as the World Bank, played a key role in putting public policy questions high on the agenda. The analysis of these developments led many authors to develop a theory of policy convergence for similar economic contexts or under the influence of large international organizations. Despite this, the social welfare reforms that were introduced in the different Latin American countries vary greatly. By comparing the pension system reform in Mexico and Brazil in particular and then the implementation of two major programmes aimed at eradicating poverty in these countries (Progresa and Bolsa Família), this article will show how historic institutional legacies can impact neo-liberal ideas.
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