Patients of the State

COVER Patients of the statePatients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina
Javier Auyero
2012, Duke University Press
196 pages

IN THIS highly original book Javier Auyero notes how, by forcing the poor and marginalized to wait endlessly for public services, the state exercises a form of social control. Auyero talks to people waiting in long queues and for long periods in a range of official administrative contexts in Buenos Aires – to receive welfare, immigration documents and housing – to find out more about the politics of waiting. His background is as a scholar of the patron-client networks that underpin Peronism, and he came to this theme almost incidentally, realising after a long trajectory of formal scholarship into related themes that being forced to wait by state officials, sometimes for years, represented an act of political subordination that was, moreover, structured and nuanced. In Patients of the State, he fits this into a broader understanding of how political patronage operates, developing the idea of a “tempography of domination”, based on a term borrowed from Eviatar Zerubavel, which Auyero says describes how “… the dominated perceive temporality and waiting, how they act or fail to act on these perceptions, and how these perceptions and these (in)actions serve to challenge or perpetuate their domination”. Auyero embodies a highly imaginative strain of Argentine scholarship that is not content to accept the ways in which many phenomena are studied and always yearns to find new explanations for the things we so often dismiss as meaningless or simply take for granted. This book is a refreshing example of the scholarly imagination in action and, one hopes, will spur the wretched being forced to wait by uncaring bureaucrats the world over to understand their plight in a new way. I recommend that a well-meaning NGO somewhere prints this book a million-fold and hands copies to people waiting in queues for public services everywhere. It will bring them great enlightenment while helping them to pass the time. – EC

Latin American Review of Books – Latamrob

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