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Volume 55 / Social Sciences


ROBERTO PATRICIO KORZENIEWICZ, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park
BENJAMIN HADIS, Associate Professor of Sociology, Montclair State College


WHEREAS THE 1970S AND THE EARLY 1980S were accompanied by increased funding of the social sciences, and a phenomenal growth in the number of research centers servicing these disciplines, the late 1980s and early 1990s witnessed a reversal of these trends. Financial resources are increasingly scarce due to the adoption of new funding priorities by international agencies, the implementation of fiscal readjustment programs under the Menem Administration, and the impact of unfavorable exchange rates on grants denominated in foreign currency. Facing this dramatic decline in available resources, many independent research centers have been forced to reduce substantially their activities and personnel.

Scholars and research centers face limited options as they seek to overcome their financial constraints. Some institutions are creating or expanding instructional programs, a strategy designed to tap into the high-tuition market created by a rapidly growing demand for professional certificates. Other centers have sought greater institutional support by tailoring their research projects more closely to the policy needs of international organizations or State agencies. Many institutions have had to cut expenses severely, in some instances by closing down altogether. (Most deeply affected were those centers that had either limited sources of funding, or a narrow area of study and/or methodological approach.) Despite some exceptions among the most prestigious scholars and centers, the scope and depth of academic research in private and independent research centers has been restricted, at a time when the public university system continues to suffer from a lack of the most basic resources (item bi 94008530).

Stringent financial conditions have had a noticeable impact on recent publications in the social sciences. Due to budget cuts, independent research centers have drastically curtailed their own publications. Moreover, book prices continue to be very high, restricting the willingness of commercial presses to publish academic monographs attractive to only a limited market. As a result, scholars have been moving away from the traditional book format as the primary mechanism for publication. Instead, they rely heavily on occasional, and often informal, monographic series (e.g., research papers which are simply photocopied and sold at cost).

Thus, the social science monographs that do get published by commercial presses are frequently written for popular consumption. Generally characterized by less rigorous attention to methodology and research design, these books tend to adopt the form of essays and/or personal observations on issues of public concern (such as the persistence of authoritarianism or gender inequalities). For example, the study of gender continues to generate many contributions, but many of these publications are intended as general introductions to women's studies or to topics of public interest. Few monographs on gender provide new data or significant insights and high quality monographs tend to be scarce. Nevertheless, a number of publications annotated below do make important contributions to the field.

Since the early 1990s, the analysis of the social impact of economic restructuring has become a central area of concern. Studies focus on several dimensions of change in the distribution of wealth. Some monographs explore how economic restructuring has led to a greater concentration of income among elites. Other works similarly interpret the redistribution of wealth, but concentrate on the growing prevalence of poverty and unemployment among urban households. Several studies differentiate among types of poverty. The term "structurally poor" is used to refer to low-income households that fail to meet basic standards in housing and health, while "pauperized" refers to those households who do meet the latter basic needs but whose income has fallen below the poverty line (item bi 94008520). These studies suggest that one of the most pernicious effects of hyperinflation in the 1980s was to increase drastically the number of "pauperized" middle-class households.

Related to economic restructuring, but more closely tied to policy concerns, are several significant contributions assessing the social and economic impact of development projects in areas such as welfare and public health. (Particularly interesting research exists on programs that target drug abuse.) Some of these studies analyze the institutional trajectory of specific projects (generally initiated by non-governmental organizations in conjunction with local communities, although with considerable direct involvement of State agencies in some fields). These monographs also evaluate the appropriateness of State responses to these social programs. The most interesting findings, however, emerge from evaluations of the social and organizational dynamics taking place between and among the different agents involved in development projects (item bi 94008466).

More traditional studies of class structure and social change have also appeared (items bi 94008478 and bi 94008499). However, several areas that received considerable attention in the past are now attracting less research interest. For example, there are fewer recent studies on labor, either those examining trade union organization or workplace and labor market arrangements. Likewise, there are fewer sociological inquiries into migration and urbanization, although there is a heightened interest in the social construction of ethnic and cultural identity among the urban poor. (Advancing innovative interpretations, this latter set of studies follows a long tradition of urban research within Argentina sociology.) Important recent phenomena such as the rapid growth of medium-sized cities in the interior provinces and the impact of deindustrialization and impoverishment on working-class and middle-class neighborhoods generated relatively little new work.

Key areas of sociological inquiry continue to be characterized by an uneven balance of macro and micro studies, with most monographs adopting a broad and general approach. In the study of enterprises, for example, there is a continuing concern with the impact of business organizations on politics and the corporate arrangements through which large economic groups might influence policies. In addition, the negotiations involved in the privatization of public enterprises are examined. In works on political institutions, inquiries into the military as a political actor have continued to decline. Nevertheless, there are several general analyses of the persistence of authoritarian attitudes within civil society, a number of which seek to explain these attitudes as a cultural legacy of early Spanish colonization in the Americas.

Fewer sociological studies present a micro or detailed analysis of these spheres. In regard to enterprises, for example, there are virtually no monographs that provide in-depth perspectives on the organizational structure of business firms, the operation of internal labor markets, or the micro-level impact of economic restructuring on production and marketing. Likewise, there are few studies of the internal structure of State agencies or organizations of political representation, particularly in relation to recent changes.

The disparity between macro and micro studies is less pronounced in the study of households, an area that has received considerable attention. The study of household dynamics fits well with research on the social impact of economic restructuring, as well as with the social construction of identities (particularly in studies on gender and youth).

Regardless of the relative scarcity of detailed studies, salient monographs in the study of enterprises and the State have appeared. For example, scholars focus on the growing heterogeneity of enterprises, particularly in rural areas (item bi 94008511). In the area of political sociology, there is an excellent contribution seeking to reconstruct the evolution of political discourse (item bi 94008479). Studies in this area also provide important insights into the historical evolution of social programs, the relationship between politics and marketing, and the impact of corruption in shaping State agencies and policies.


Many of the trends noted above for Argentina also apply to Uruguay. Fiscal constraints have had a detrimental impact on academic production, and this is reflected in the volume and quality of research publications. A noteworthy exception can be found in several publications of the Centro de Informaciones y Estudios del Uruguay, particularly regarding a long-term project focusing on social movements and forms of collective action (items bi 94008568 and bi 94008562). There are also a significant number of monographs dealing with gender studies. As in Argentina, many of these publications are oriented towards the general public and provide little original research. However, there are some notable exceptions, such as an intelligent case study of female labor participation in the fish industry (item bi 94008559).

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