Colombian society in the 1990s: Fragmentation, legitimacy, and efficiency

Luis Javier Orjuela, Florida International University


During the nineties, Colombia experienced a two-fold process of restructuring. First, the political system underwent a process of constitutional reform in order to strengthen the state and increase its legitimacy, surpass the exclusionary character of the political regime, and achieve greater equity in the distribution of social resources. Second, the economy made the transition from a Keynesian development strategy to a strategy of “opening” or liberalization and internationalization of the economy, in order to increase the economic efficiency by reducing the “size” of the state and its regulatory role. The purpose of this dissertation is to analyze the interplay and contradictions of economic and political factors in the restructuring of the Colombian politico-economic system. The main finding of this dissertation is that the simultaneous adoption of a neoliberal economic strategy and of the Political Constitution of 1991, have had a contradictory relationship: while the “political opening” has produced favorable conditions for fostering programs of democratization and social integration, the “economic opening” has counteracted that possibility given that it implies a social exclusionary process. This tension has aggravated the problems of political and social integration that have traditionally characterized Colombian society. This crucial tension has also been characteristic of Latin America in the nineties. However, it has been neglected and undertheorized in most of the democratization studies of American comparative politics. Most of them lack consideration of structural aspects. According to those studies, the cause of regime change is determined by the strategic elections of actors. Contrary to these approaches, I develop a structural perspective. I consider that social phenomena are partly determined by structural factors, and scientific research should assign them decisive importance, since a fundamental basis for social action and transformation is to be found in the dynamics of relationships between individuals and structures and the development of contradictions within structures.

Subject Area

Political science|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Orjuela, Luis Javier, "Colombian society in the 1990s: Fragmentation, legitimacy, and efficiency" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3147408.