Dignifying Argentina : Peronism, Citizenship and Mass Consumption
Juan Peron's first two terms (1946-1955) were heady times for a country emerging from military dictatorships and economic depression. Argentineans gained a new sense of participation in government and the workplace. Social protection programs grew to serve many formerly displaced citizens. Greater economic prosperity was promised for all, and Peron's "Nueva Argentina" became the envy of all of Latin America.
In Dignifying Argentina, Eduardo Elena examines popular consumption as a locus for Peron's reform programs, and as a lens for viewing the political hopes and material de- sires of citizens during the most transformative era of twentieth-century Argentina. At the heart of Peron's populist rhetoric was the concept of vida digna (dignified life).This entailed state regulation of consumption and the marketplace, and as Elena's study shows, political culture and political economy became deeply intertwined.
Perception and reality soon grew far apart, however. Material aspirations in the household far exceeded product availability and income levels. The administration began to openly criticise the unrealistic wants of citizens. Military, industrial, and religious factions were increasingly dissatisfied, and Peron was eventually deposed.
As Dignifying Argentina reveals, despite their failings, the powerful chord that Peron's programs struck with the working class for individual rights, social protection, and standard of living-offered a newfound hope that empowered ordinary citizens as never before.