In recent years, a new development model has arisen in Latin America whose spread has been facilitated by the changes which have taken place in the world economy (globalization, technological innovation); and their repercussions on the region. A consensus has been generated in respect of the model's economic tenets, and there is also widespread agreement --which is gradually being reflected in concrete measures-- on the role that should be assigned to the State. With regard to social policies, an awareness has been growing --with some difficulty-- of the limitations of the traditional way of implementing them and the need to develop new criteria on their design and application. On the one hand, this article analyses the ways each development model relates to the role of the State and the social component, while on the other it sets forth two social policy paradigms (the prevailing one and that which is now emerging); currently found in Latin America and contrasts them in various dimensions: institutionality, decision-making logic, financing, objectives, criteria with regard to priorities and expansion, population benefited, basic approaches and indicators used. Finally, various social programmes are described which illustrate the innovations put into effect in the region.