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Volume 53 / Social Sciences


BARBARA DEUTSCH LYNCH, Program Officer, Latin American and Caribbean Programs, The Ford Foundation
AMALIA M. ALBERTI, Independent Consultant, San Salvador


IN ECUADOR, THE CONSEQUENCES of structural adjustment policies implemented in the 1980s provide the motive and the backdrop to many of the works presented. This theme is addressed directly in works relating to food availability, health, nutrition, and migration (items bi 91022773 and bi 91022796), and indirectly in studies of marginal urban populations and shifting demographic trends (items bi 91022774, bi 91022780, bi 91022784, bi 91022801, bi 91022802, and bi 91022806).

Notably reduced among the current selections are examples of social science research and analysis focused on contemporary conditions in the Highlands and rural areas, such as have been in evidence in the recent past (see HLAS 49:8247, HLAS 49:8250, HLAS 49:8256, HLAS 49:8261, HLAS 51:4789, and HLAS 51:4791). The outstanding exception to this generalization is the three-volume publication by Quintero and Silva which devotes considerable attention to ongoing changes and their implications for the economy and rural populations (item bi 91022793).

In contrast, the number of studies considering different aspects of life in urban areas has markedly increased (items bi 91022780, bi 91022801, bi 91022802, bi 91022806, and bi 91022817). Research has also appeared on economic activities not frequently targeted for investigation. For example, the volume on small-scale fishing is a welcome addition to research in non-traditional enterprises (item bi 91022795).

For the first time in recent years, gender differences have become a serious research issue. Studies focused on women are not only highlighting their reproductive roles (items bi 91022780 and bi 91022802), but also addressing their productive contributions for themselves, their households, and the society in which they live (items bi 91022792, bi 91022794, bi 91022801, bi 91022802, and bi 91022805). Differentiation based on ethnicity and class has not received comparable attention.


Where there were once three Perus, divided along ecological and economic lines, now in the time of the cholera there are only two: the entropic society shattered by the violence and descending rapidly into chaos, and the nation struggling to revise colonial technologies and social forms and blend them with indigenous forms into participatory institutions, appropriate technologies, and rules capable of ensuring order and guaranteeing reasonably secure livelihoods in the 21st century. The guarded optimism that characterized Peruvian sociology until the mid-1980s, rooted in a faith in the power of the new grassroots movements, has given way to despair over disintegration and the inability of either APRA, neoliberals, or the movements of the left to find solutions, and to preoccupation with very applied programs that might succeed where the State has apparently failed.

Traditional sierra-coast, rural-urban conceptual dichotomies are collapsing as Peru becomes a predominantly urban nation characterized by highly complex migratory patterns (item bi 92020003) and as sierra communal institutions have become the basis for new social movements in the city (items bi 90011298 and bi 88000961). Penetration of sierra culture into the urban world is evident in Lima radio programming; according to Llórens and Tamayo (item bi 90011142), serrano programming not only allows migrants to maintain their cultural identity amid alienating forces, but also constitutes a platform for political expression of serrano and migrant interests.

The web of economic and political relations that ties Andean smallholders to national and international markets, albeit on disadvantageous terms, has become harder to conceal, the dichotomization between the economically modern, Western Peru of the coast and the backward Indian Highland Peru has also fallen away. Ansión, for example, finds expressions of Andean political traditions in national public life, both rural and urban (item bi 90013738). Regionalism as a means to redress rural-urban, sierra-coast inequality is a persistent institutional theme in Peruvian sociology. In the 1980s, social scientists and political leaders viewed decentralization alternatively as a means for stimulating economic growth or broadening access to goods and services. Gonzales de Olarte (item bi 90012323) argues that orthodox policies that favor decentralization and reduction in the size of the State are no more likely to allow exit from crisis than the heterodox policies which tried to redemocratize amid economic crisis, but instead have reinforced State centralization. Gonzales' institutional solution is a reform that would strengthen regional institutions of the State and allow for reintegration on a more equal footing. While effective regional development strategies are not yet in place, Adrianzén (item bi 90012389) points out the vital function that progressive municipal governments both in Lima and the sierra have performed in linking State and society.

Attempts to uncover new Peruvian institutional logics are closely related to concerns about violence. Both direct physical violence (stemming from Sendero activity, coca trafficking, and overreactions by government forces) and indirect violence (stemming from the failure of orthodox and heterodox stabilization policies) are often interpreted as the historical results of the imposition of foreign technologies and institutions. The 1991 cholera epidemic reminds us that the violence of guerrillas, narcotraficantes, and sinchis has tended to overshadow the more pervasive and insidious violence wrought by economic policies or lack thereof (e.g., see item bi 92020003 for a discussion of the impacts of migration on the mental health of migrants). Simons looks to popular organizations for programmatic alternatives to violence (item bi 90011130). Andreas and Kirk, however, indicate that the net impact of failed stabilization policies has been to weaken grassroots democratic institutions which had flourished during the crisis of the 1980s (items bi 90011298 and bi 92020003), institutions now threatened by their inability to meet the basic needs of their mushrooming constituencies. At an individual level, Barrig (item bi 88000962), Hernández (item bi 88000961) and Valdivia Dounce (item bi 90011122) provide ample evidence that the net effects of crisis are gendered, and are felt by low-paid female wage workers in transnational and national industries as well as their counterparts in selva indigenous society and in sierra mineworker communities.

For Peruvian sociologists, exit from the morass requires development of technologies and institutions in harmony with Andean values, but which are appropriate to the modern world. This philosophy underlies studies of widely differing aspects of Peruvian society, including Ansión's study of political discourse in popular culture (item bi 90011298), Quedena et al.'s analysis of legal promotion programs in Lima's no-longer-so-very-young pueblos jóvenes (item bi 90011157), Cáceres' thesis on communication and violence (item bi 90011141), the Valderrama volume on popular radio (item bi 90011142), and Van der Ploeg's and Carrasco's studies of appropriate development strategies and technologies for sierra agriculture (items bi 90012556 and bi 90011149).

The past five years have been less a time for sociological reflection and imaginative thought than one for activism. Support for academic social science is declining, and an ever greater proportion of the sociology produced is applied and supported by partisan groups, local non-governmental organizations, and development agencies. The methodological impacts of these changes in the discipline are mixed however: while quantitative data sets are often dated, oral histories are being used creatively and to good effect.

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