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Shrinking Space: International Constraints on Economic Policymaking Open Access

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In 2013, I first proposed the concept of “forced equilibrism” (FE), which called for researchers in critical international political economy to study the shrinking policymaking space available to medium power country leaders. In that limited, initial work, I focused on a single Latin American government that was forced to navigate between the demands of increasingly powerful international capitalists and their allies on the one hand, and the increasing potency of domestic political constituents either to make their demands heard or to disrupt the national market on the other hand. In this work, I identify three interrelated international channels through which countries face and accept or overcome the constraints of FE: trade, finance, and extractives. I then illustrate these forces through narratives focused on specific policy decisions. The goal of this work is to test the analytical robustness of FE by considering the cases of two of the region's other middle powers, Colombia and Chile, as well as Latin America's burgeoning global power, Brazil. The findings suggest that FE is indeed useful as an analytical tool or conceptual framework for explaining certain aspects of modern Latin American political economy.

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