The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism

By Paul H. Lewis

With a new preface by the author

594 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4356-7
    Published: February 1992
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6464-2
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6295-7
    Published: November 2000

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Awards & distinctions

A 1991 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

At the end of World War II, Argentina was the most industrialized nation in Latin America, with a highly urbanized, literate, and pluralistic society. But over the past four decades, the country has suffered political and economic crises of increasing intensity that have stalled industrial growth, sharpened class conflict, and led to long periods of military rule. In this book, Paul Lewis attempts to explain how that happened.

Lewis begins by describing the early development of Argentine industry, from just before the turn of the century to the eve of Juan Peron's rise to power after World War II. He discusses the emergence of the new industrialists and urban workers and delineates the relationships between those classes and the traditional agrarian elites who controlled the state.

Under Peron, the country shifted from an essentially liberal strategy of development to a more corporatist approach. Whereas most writers view Peron as a pragmatist, if not opportunist, Lewis treats him as an ideologue whose views remained consistent throughout his career, and he holds Peron, along with his military colleagues, chiefly responsible for ending the evolution of Argentina's economy toward dynamic capitalism.

Lewis describes the political stalemate between Peronists and anti-Peronists from 1955 to 1987 and shows how the failure of post-Peron governments to incorporate the trade union movement into the political and economic mainstream resulted in political polarization, economic stagnation, and a growing level of violence. He then recounts Peron's triumphal return to power and the subsequent inability of his government to restore order and economic vigor through a return to corporatist measures. Finally, Lewis examines the equally disappointing failures of the succeeding military regime under General Videla and the restoration of democracy under President Raul Alfonsin to revive the free market.

By focusing on the organization, development, and political activities of pressure groups rather than on parties or governmental institutions, Lewis gets to the root causes of Argentina's instability and decline--what he calls "the politics of political stagnation." At the same time, he provides important information about Argentina's entrepreneurial classes and their relation to labor, government, the military, and foreign capital. The book is unique in the wealth of its detail and the depth of its analysis.

About the Author

Paul Lewis is professor of political science at Tulane University.
For more information about Paul H. Lewis, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism is dramatic and picturesque as well as depressing."--Economist

"This is an important and provocative book, one that will without the slightest doubt become must reading for all those interested in Argentina. Paul Lewis goes beyond statistics and economic factors. His central conclusion is that Argentine capitalism has failed because interest groups are unable to compromise and work together; among the popular forces and the elites, there is not even a modicum of trust. On the contrary, economics, as politics, is seen as a zero-sum game. Thus, Lewis links economic failure to what has long been seen as the central cause of Argentina's malaise: its chronic inability to reach consensus."--Wayne S. Smith, The Johns Hopkins University

"A splendid piece of politico-economic history from a free-market viewpoint."--The Economist

"A first-rate study."--Journal of Politics

"A major achievement, one . . . all argentinistas will find indispensable."--The Americas