This Spanish-language collection — the only one of its kind for any Latin American country — presents an extensive grassroots view of Argentina and the significant social and political movements that transformed the nation between 1997 and 2003. Public Life in Contemporary Argentina offers fast access to a vast amount of material from organizations, participants in social movements and news sources during a time of great governmental and cultural upheaval. It presents perspectives that challenge conventional wisdom and official interpretation released by Argentina's traditional power brokers and records the rarely-heard voices of citizens through fliers, pamphlets, newsletters, reports, statistics official statements, email and more.
Sociologists, political scientists, journalists and students studying new social movements and the crisis of representation will find Public Life in Contemporary Argentina extremely relevant. The collection is also an excellent resource for studies in Latin America, comparative politics, sociology, gender, the uses of media in political organizing, political and social groups, social anthropology and history.
Summary: Public Life in Contemporary Argentina offers the most current information on the complex social and political movements in the country, especially:
- The spontaneous pot-banging demonstrations (cacerolazos) that took place in the city of Buenos Aires on the 19th and 20th of December of 2001, and which led President Fernando de la Rua to resign from office
- The emergence and spread of neighborhood assemblies throughout the country that occurred between late December 2001 and early October 2003
- The development between December 2001 and October 2003 of a nationwide network composed of depositors (ahorristas) whose savings and checking accounts were frozen by bank officials (corralito)
These movements, along with the others that appeared alongside them, provided a place for citizens throughout the country to imagine and practice democracy in civic terms, enabling them to break with clientelist, corporativist and consumerist notions of public life which had predominated during the governments of President Raul Alfonsin (1983-89), President Carlos Menem (1989-93, 1993-99) and President Fernando de la Rua (1999-2000).
The sources of information included in Public Life in Contemporary Argentina go far beyond standard press coverage and government declarations to emphasize the words of participants in movements that are changing Argentina.
Neighborhood-level coverage — which includes major sections of the federal capital — is especially insightful. Groups that are documented include:
- Civic associations focused on social protest, neighborhood work, confrontations with governing authorities and staged events
- Bartering networks created to enhance counter-trade of goods and services among the unemployed and underemployed
- Savers’ groups organized to protest and challenge the government’s elimination of the Argentine peso being on par with the U.S. dollar and the subsequent freezing of bank accounts
- Grassroots assemblies of housewives, the unemployed, intellectuals, neighborhoods, rubbish and recycling scavengers and neighborhood cultural groups
- Political parties
- Communal gardens
- Self-employed groups, especially from bankrupt small businesses and worker-controlled factories
The unique primary sources found in Public Life in Contemporary Argentina include:
- Publications of grassroots organizations (fliers, pamphlets, bulletins and newsletters)
- General descriptive information on groups and activities, including materials designed for street or workplace distribution
- Provincial, regional and national newspaper reports
- Reports from alternative media sources focused on specific topics, such as women, counterculture and the environment
- Informative, organizational and polemical statements posted on websites
- Interviews with leaders and members of grassroots organizations
- Statistical data on relevant aspects of public life, such as unemployment, number of civic groups in the country, and socioeconomic and racial background of citizens active in groups
- E-mail and discussion groups and data from research think tanks
Public Life in Contemporary Argentina will be useful for:
- Sociologists and political scientists analyzing new social movements and the crisis of representation
- Researchers interested in how neighborhoods, political parties, social movements and protest groups organize and operate
- Students of Latin America, comparative politics, sociology, gender, the uses of media in political organizing, political and social groups, social anthropology and history
Users may search for information in several ways (name of movement, type of movement, thematic issue, region or geographical location, date/source of information). The glossary, which includes a list of key words, will enable users to make sense of unfamiliar terms. The map of Argentina and the city of Buenos Aires can be used to locate where each of the movements discussed in the text surfaced.
Significance: Public Life in Contemporary Argentina provides a behind-the-scenes view of how a country grappled with a political and economic meltdown, including insight into how people dealt with political corruption, failing banks, lack of food and more. Its material is relevant for current conditions in Argentina and other Latin American nations.
Source: Public Life in Contemporary Argentina was compiled by Dr. Carlos A. Forment, Director at the Centro de Investigación y Documentación de la Vida Pública in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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