Johanna del Pilar Cortés Nieto: Taming Social and Economic Rights—Austerity in Colombia

Taming Social and Economic Rights: Austerity in Colombia

Johanna del Pilar Cortés Nieto

Johanna del Pilar Cortés Nieto’s doctoral research focuses on the technologies and techniques deployed in recent decades to govern the poor. She is looking in particular at how resistant and opposition to neoliberal reforms are neutralised and domesticated. Her inquiry also involves questions such as how poverty is represented and problematized, how both representations of poverty and technologies to govern the poor emerge and travel across jurisdictions, and what effect they have on the life of marginalised populations. The part of the research that she will discuss during the transregional academy focuses on how social and economic rights in Colombia have been rewritten from inside appealing to discourses of austerity and macroeconomic stability. Since the late 1990s, social and economic rights have become a counterweight to neoliberal reforms, placing Colombia at the centre of debates about the transformative potential of rights. The executive has attempted to tame the jurisprudence on social and economic rights in different ways, being the latest a constitutional amendment which made austerity rules binding on the judiciary and other public authorities. Even though austerity rules were categorised as guiding criteria, the amendment has been successful in preventing structural remedies and other types of decisions which favour marginalised and impoverished groups. She argues that the reform follows the international consensus on austerity as the ultimate solution to stagflation and other macroeconomic problems that emerged in the aftermath of 2008 crisis. It also draws on a transnational trend that pictures austerity rules as good constitutional practices, and which aims to “lock in” neoliberal capitalism by reshaping political subjects and state forms in line with market logic.

Johanna del Pilar Cortés Nieto is a PhD candidate at the School of Law at the University of Warwick. She received her LLB from Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia and her LLM from Columbia University, New York. She has worked for the Constitutional Court of Colombia and has taught modules on Constitutional Law and Human Rights at Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá. Her research interests lie in social and economic justice, critical approaches to development and the management of poverty, neoliberal legality, and transnational law. Her doctoral thesis examines the administration of poverty in neoliberal times, specifically the technologies implicated in taming and neutralising marginal populations.


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