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Volume 59 / Social Sciences


ROBERTO PATRICIO KORZENIEWICZ, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park


Academic production in the social sciences continues to be severely constrained by a deepening economic crisis. The fiscal crisis of the state continues to be accompanied by drastic reductions in the public resources made available by policymakers for the educational system. International and private funding opportunities for substantive research projects are limited (except in a few narrow areas targeted by transnational foundations and agencies for their direct policy implications). Facing falling demand, local presses have become more reticent to publish works intended for scholarly consumption, emphasizing instead the publication of titles with a broader popular appeal. These tendencies have restricted the extent of book-length publications in the social sciences.

Despite these constraints, social science research has gained in scope. In a continuation of trends that have been highlighted in previous Handbook volumes, broader intellectual shifts have promoted greater scholarly attention to processes of social differentiation other than class stratification (such as gender or ethnic differentiation). The deepening economic crisis and the transformations undergone during the 1990s are themselves objects of inquiry, particularly in regards to their social impact on specific sectors of the population. Finally, the crisis of state-centered arrangements and the growing importance of new political actors (such as nongovernmental organizations and social movements among the unemployed) contribute to a continuing interest in identifying the character and impact of organizational transformations, from both contemporary and historical perspectives. Of course, works concerning established areas of inquiry, such as the political sociology of peronism (item #bi 98007355#) and demographic transformations (item #bi 00002961#).

A most important area of research has been on various processes affecting social differentiation and the constitution of collective identities. Several studies focus on patterns of international migration to Argentina, effectively combining quantitative data (usually drawn from censuses and other official sources) with qualitative ethnographic information (usually based on field study data), and providing compelling accounts of the construction and reproduction of ethnic identities (for particularly good examples, see items #bi 00002776#, #bi 00004836#, and #bi 98007319#). With a similar reliance on ethnographic methods of inquiry, other contributions have focused on the emergence and development of local collective identities constructed around neighborhoods (among such studies, item #bi 95020987# provides key insights into the impact of different neighborhood association sites on the construction of popular culture, and item #bi 97017884# explores how alternative identities interact within a single neighborhood to construct a sense of place).

These studies on the constitution of collective identities often merge into more traditional inquiries into processes of class differentiation and social mobility in urban and (particularly) rural areas, while maintaining an emphasis on using ethnographic methods for investigation. Along these lines, several studies have focused on the recent transformations undergone by small rural producers (item #bi 99003011#), rural households (item #bi 99003528#), and sugar workers in Tucumán (item #bi2002004228#). Adopting a broader perspective, and relying on text analysis and cultural interpretation, other contributions have focused on the importance of key icons and narratives in the construction of national identity (items #bi 98010386#, #bi 98007317#, and #bi 97017957#).

There continues to be considerable sociological research and publication on the social impact of structural adjustment policies. As reported previously in HLAS, these studies seek to identify the impact of recent changes in social spending on different sectors of the population, the new individual and collective strategies that those affected by such changes have deployed, and the relative ability of different social programs to effectively reach their intended beneficiaries. Examples of such research include studies on the broad patterns and recent trends characterizing social inequality (most importantly, item #bi 00003846#), the evolution of poverty and inequality in the Greater Buenos Aires area (items #bi 00002930# and #bi2002004311#), the social implications of the crisis of the welfare state (item #bi 98007336#), and the impact of adjustment policies in various areas of social expenditure (item #bi 98007338#).

Linked to these concerns, several studies focus on the relationship between recent economic transformations and the growing importance of new forms of political organization and social movements. For example, some authors have focused on recent explosions of political unrest in the provinces (item #bi2001000958#) and on new forms of organization among the unemployed and working poor (item #bi 00003362#). There is also an interest in identifying the character of clientelism (item #bi 00006358#) and the political impact of nongovernmental organizations (item #bi 98007350#). This line of study also includes revisiting established assumptions about the character of social movements in the country's earlier history (item #bi 00004954#).

Recent events in Argentina are likely to continue promoting interest into the three areas discussed above: new patterns of identity and social differentiation, the social impact of the crisis, and the character of new forms of social organization and protest. Ethnographic methods of inquiry will continue to be favored in organizing such research; such methods are characterized by a relatively lower cost (at a time of economic scarcity), and by greater accessibility to graduate students conducting such research to meet degree requirements. As in the recent past, these new investigators are likely, refreshingly, to continue expanding the breadth of inquiry in the social sciences.


One of the most distinguishing characteristics of social science publications in Chile has been a strong focus on gender. Such an emphasis continues to characterize the field in the late 1990s. For example, several studies employ a gender perspective to analyze new forms of social organization among fruit workers (item #bi 99009126#) and poor urban communities (item #bi 98007321#). Other studies focus on the broader impact of women on new patterns of political representation (items #bi 97017022# and #bi 98007276#), particularly as the demands that women's organizations raised in the 1980s and early 1990s are incorporated into existing institutional arrangements (item #bi 98007288#; for a review of trends and accomplishments in the field from an official perspective, see item #bi 97007192#).

A broader concern with the impact of nongovernmental organizations, particularly in relation to their ability to effectively empower the poor, is evident in several publications (items #bi 98000394#, #bi 97008843#, and #bi 97016404#). Alongside such studies, generally focusing on relatively new forms of organization, other publications reevaluate recent transformations in labor relations, from a nationwide perspective (item #bi 97004937#) and regarding specific areas of production (for example, focusing on the fresh fruit industry, see items #bi 98004825# and #bi 98005086#).

Whereas the aforementioned studies focus primarily on the social transformations experienced "from below," a parallel line of research seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of state programs in targeting the poor to enhance their status and welfare "from above" (for example, item #bi 97004939# focuses on the impact of educational training programs, and item #bi 97016405# argues that administrative decentralization is likely both to promote greater efficiency in the delivery of public goods, and to empower the relevant populations). A more skeptical evaluation of the impact of economic integration and political reform can be found in several publications (items #bi 98007265# and #bi 98007285#).

As part of this evaluation, some studies have reconsidered earlier patterns of political participation in Chile, showing, for example, that effective levels of participation in the 19th century were considerably higher than often assumed (item #bi 98007368#). One very compelling piece offers an overview of the impact of recent transformations in Chile's political system (item #bi 99005017#).

Several studies continue to address more traditional sociological issues. Noteworthy along these lines is a comparative sociology of various social movements in Chile and Mexico (item #bi 98007326#); an excellent study of the social characteristics of drug consumption (item #bi 98007286#); and a survey project on perceptions across the population regarding crime (item #bi 98007366#). Also salient is a beautifully illustrated account of the political use of murals in the country (item #bi 98007260#).


As in Argentina, there is a strong interest in evaluating the social impact of recent economic transformations (item #bi 00005198#), the social effect of new patterns of state expenditures (items #bi 99003601# and #bi2002004189#), migration (item #bi 98007270#), and cultural studies (item #bi 98007344#). Beyond these general themes, the social science literature in Uruguay explores some exciting areas of inquiry. Studies in political sociology provide useful insights into the development of the welfare state and electoral politics (items #bi 98007342# and #bi 98007341#). Surveys and textual analysis are used effectively to investigate patterns of sexual behavior, the construction of sexuality, and couple formation among the youth (items #bi 98007293# and #bi 97007655#).

Most importantly, a number of studies focus on the importance of race to understand patterns of social differentiation and identity in contemporary Uruguay. Good examples of this line of research range in topics from the cultural construction of race to the impact of race on labor market segmentation (items #bi 97009378#, #bi 99003601#, and #bi 98007352#).

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