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Volume 61 / Social Sciences


JAVIER AUYERO, Assistant Professor of Sociology, State University of New York at Stony Brook


CLASS INEQUALITY, POVERTY, AND CONTENTIOUS POLITICS are the three main areas of sociological research and publication in Argentina in this biennium. Several studies address the consequences of two decades of neoliberal-inspired structural adjustment policies paying particular attention to the impact that the retrenchment of the welfare component of the state and the explosion of unemployment have had on the gaps between the rich, middle-class, and poor. Related areas of inquiry are the dynamics of the labor market, the processes of dualization within the urban space, and the survival strategies of the urban poor. The main efforts of both quantitative and qualitative studies have been to examine the real-life consequences of structural reforms on the lives of middle-class and poor Argentines, the young and old, and those from the center and the periphery of the country.

A significant development in the sociological literature is the increasing attention paid to the provinces. A particularly good example of such research is the quantitative and qualitative study of employment, unemployment, and informality in the provinces of the northwest coordinated by Panaia, Aparicio, and Zurita (item #bi2003000190#).

Another noteworthy development is the attention paid to the increasing rate of everyday violence and crime, as demonstrated by the truly outstanding collection of essays produced by Gayol and Kessler (item #bi2004001376#), and to the forms of collective violence during the 1989 lootings (item #bi2002004252#).

The most prominent area of inquiry is, without a doubt, that of collective contentious action. During the 1990s, Argentina witnessed the emergence of new and unconventional forms of popular contention. Sieges of (and attacks on) public buildings (government offices, legislatures, and courthouses), barricades on national and provincial roads, and camps in central plazas (and more recently rallies including demands of food from supermarkets), became widespread throughout the country. Many works of uneven quality have attempted to document this process; most of them find in state-retrenchment and hyperunemployment the structural roots of the upsurge of protest. Estallidos (social explosions), road-blockades, country-wide rallies, or massive occupations of central plazas, are approached as variations on the same theme, i.e., as part of a wave, cycle, or repertoire of contention that, having its roots in the consequences of structural adjustment policies, represents a rupture with traditional political practices (namely, clientelism) and a novel form of popular politics. Particularly illustrative examples on this area of inquiry are the works of Cafassi, Iñigo-Carrera, and López Echagüe (items #bi2004001378#, #bi2002005135#, and #bi2004001375#) and a collection of essays on social protest in Argentina's interior (item #bi2003000200#).

Beyond these themes, academic interest has also focused attention on more traditional areas of inquiry such as electoral politics and public policy. Particularly good studies are those carried out by Artemio López and Fabián Repetto (items #bi2002004132# and #bi2003001001#). There is also a renewed interest in migration given the massive character that out-migration takes in the 1990s. Finally, as indicated in the entries below, there is also a continuing interest in Peronism as a political and cultural phenomenon, in the evolution of sociology as a discipline, and in the role of public intellectuals. Particularly interesting essays are those of Ricardo Sidicaro on the three different Peronisms (item #bi2004001373#), those compiled by Horácio González on the history of sociology (item #bi2003000189#), and those written by Beatriz Sarlo on the current cultural climate in the country (item #bi2004001372#).

All these areas of research would undoubtedly benefit from more detailed, microsociological and/or ethnographic forms of inquiry. There is much to be learned, for example, about the resources, organizations, and beliefs of protesters both in Buenos Aires and in the provinces. More in-depth studies should be done on the links between popular contention and established power-holders, well-functioning political networks, and perennial personalized forms of doing politics. Situating patterns of popular protest within the broader Latin American context might also help to identify original as well as recurrent forms of contention.

Finally, as noted in previous versions of this report, sociological studies might fruitfully explore the topic of gender difference and inequality. The dominant concern with the effects of structural reforms on the gap between rich, middle-class, and poor should not preclude attention to the gendered character of the current socioeconomic transformations.


The literature on Uruguay clearly demonstrates that there is an intense concern with the dynamics of the labor market. Similar to the works on Argentina, many of the studies seek to identify relevant transformations in the labor market, paying particular attention to mobility and growing informality. An important area of inquiry is the study of different types of violence (domestic, institutional, etc.). A large number of publications, again as with Argentina, deal with poverty and unemployment as well as with the multiple effects of social exclusion.

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