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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: PERU


CORNELIA BUTLER FLORA, Professor of Sociology, North Central Regional Centre for Rural Development, Iowa State University


THE COMPLEXITY AND BREADTH of sociological studies of Peru continues to increase. Analyses in the 1980s emphasized circulation and consumption, while those of the 1970s emphasized the social relations of production. Both of these two previous decades of research focused on the Peruvian State as a principal protagonist. In the 1990s, however, the responsibility of ensuring social reproduction has shifted from the State to society as a consequence of the decline in the power and relevance of the State, including the loss of the State's monopoly on the use of arms, increasing State corruption, and its increasing inability to meet its traditional obligations to its citizens.

Current research no longer uses Marxist structural determinism to assess the Peruvian situation. Increasing attention is being paid to the concept of agency (particularly collective agency) and its ability to influence structure. For example, researchers now focus on symbolic, cultural, and ethnic aspects of social movements and social change (item bi 93008039). There is less concentration on the relations of movements to the State and political parties, and more on movements' relations with other social groups (item bi 93008038). There is also less emphasis on the political and economic aspects of movements and more on their internal dynamics, forms of leadership, internal conflicts, and differentiation (items bi 93007984 and bi 94005863). Research is less to justify and legitimate the movements than to understand them holistically. Indigenous knowledge is increasingly recognized as a means to build identity and local action (items bi 93008030, bi 94005862, and bi 92011193).

In the absence of an effective State, non-governmental organizations are becoming much more important in addressing social issues, including the delivery of basic social services (items bi 93008019, bi 93008036, bi 93008040, bi 94005874 and bi 92016208). While this model is accepted and even applauded by most authors annotated below, others suggest that the increasing influence of such organizations decreases the possibility of democratic participation and increases international control over their activities (items bi 93008027 and bi 93007980).

Research analyzes new social actors, rather than just examining repressive structures. New social actors include entrepreneurs (items bi 93008022 and bi 93008028), women's groups (items bi 93008004, bi 93007983, bi 93007971 and bi 94005860), youth (items bi 93008032 and bi 94005881), and community organizations (items bi 94005863 and bi 94005868) in both rural and urban areas (item bi 94005865). And new space for social activity, particularly within local communities and municipal governments, receives more attention than in the past (items bi 94005864, bi 94005877, and bi 93008011). Neither is structure forgotten. Many researchers draw connections between policies of adjustment and the fragmentation of collective social action, a process that is debilitating the associative vitality of Peru (item bi 93008013).

The research approaches for this biennium are influenced by Gramsci, Etienne Henry, and the polemic between Haya and Mariátegui. As the role of human agency and identity, particularly ethnic and gender identity, receive more emphasis than in the past (item bi 93008018), reductionism in viewing class struggle is less prevalent. This new trend extends to demographic analyses of particular ethnic groups as well as to studies of Peruvians abroad (items bi 93007988, bi 93007997, and bi 94005887). More research addresses the internal tensions of movement formation and the need to understand differences among groups, thus departing from broad generalizations (item bi 93008033). In fact, research is increasingly designed to understand differences, instead of to generalize. There are more empirical studies (in contrast to "reflections"), and those studies often are creative combinations of qualitative and quantitative methodologies.


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