Dignifying Argentina

Dignifying Argentina: Peronism, Citizenship, and Mass Consumption
Eduardo Elena
2011, University of Pittsburgh Press
344 pages

CONSUMPTION has begun to displace class as an object of sociological analysis and can provide many insights into the materialist relationship between production and politics that at one time was illuminated solely by a cold, often monolithic examination of social relations. This book might be set in that context of a changing sociological vocabulary, examining as it does the relationship between a political culture in motion and dynamic material aspirations. Eduardo Elena examines how Latin America’s largest populist movement under Juan and Eva Perón redefined national citizenship around promises of a vida digna, a dignified life defined largely in terms of the satisfaction of basic wants and improved access to consumer products. Elena’s approach provides a fresh perspective on the relationship linking political and socio-economic change – between populism and mass consumption – and in so doing provides a potential lifeline to drowning materialists. He draws on documentary evidence to demonstrate how the consumer aspirations of citizens whipped into a populist frenzy by Peronism overalpped with the aspirations of statist development. The result sheds new light on why Peronism struck such a chord in the most Europeanised society of the Americas while, in its way, putting a spring back into the step of class analysis itself. – EC