In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Background Studies
  • The Postwar Period
  • Recent Political Processes
  • Past and Recent Economic Policies
  • Socioeconomic Change
  • Authoritarianism
  • Civil-Military Relations
  • Democratization
  • Electoral Politics and Political Parties
  • Peronism
  • Early and Late Peronism
  • The 2001 Crisis
  • Social Protest: Antecedents
  • Recent Political Mobilization
  • Selected Public Policy Works
  • Comparative Policies

Political Science Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
Ana Margheritis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0064


Argentina is a fascinating and intriguing case to study politics and policies. Its history is representative of general trends in the Latin American Southern Cone, although, it is also distinctive in paradoxical ways. Its passage from a rich young republic ranked among the top ten economies of the world at the beginning of the 20th century to a declining and crisis-ridden economy ruled by authoritarian and flawed democratic regimes has raised questions about the incapacity to overcome chronic political and economic problems. Within the developing world, Argentina stands out as a case of reversal of development compounded by political instability and violence. As in other Latin American countries, the impact of global trends has highlighted new dimensions of these problems since the 1980s. The annotated bibliography compiled in this essay offers a sample of those old and new academic concerns. It starts with general works that provide background information about politics and policy in Argentina, followed by two sections focusing on the most recent political and economic processes, namely, the transition from authoritarianism to democracy in the early 1980s and from a state-centered economic model to a market-centered one in the early 1990s. From the outset of these dramatic transformations, a number of topics gathered scholars’ attention. Thus, the unfolding of these two transitions encouraged extensive research on their timing, modality, impact, and related processes and actors, such as the new role adopted by the military and political parties; the socioeconomic changes involved in those transformations; the challenges of strengthening democratic institutions; the evolution of the political party system in general and of Peronism in particular; the dynamics of electoral processes; the causes and consequences of the 2001 crisis; the emergence of new forms of social protest and political mobilization; and the implications of new policies being implemented. These issues help to structure the rest of the essay around various sections. Each of them contains a selected number of works in Spanish and English. Rather than a complete, comprehensive list of annotations, each section compiles a selection of studies addressing different dimensions of the topic and presenting complementary and/or contrasting points of view. Two comparative sections are included at the end to provide an overview of works that contextualize the unique features of Argentine politics and policies in the regional and international context. The comparisons also help to identify lessons from the Argentine case that may illuminate other cases in the region and beyond.

General Overviews

There is a considerable number of works that provide broad overviews of Argentina’s history and the evolution of some policy issues. Palacio 1984 is one of the most comprehensive historical overviews available in Spanish, covering major developments since the first settlements in the Río de la Plata area up to 1976. Brown 2002 takes a similar starting point but focuses on the role of agricultural activities in situating the country in international markets competitively by the second half of the 19th century. Rock 1985 goes from the colonial times to the early 1980s, tracing sociopolitical and economic facts to account for Argentina’s erratic path. Romero 2002 offers a comprehensive historical account of Argentina’s history in the 20th century, including a thorough analysis of the role of the state as provider of public goods and guardian of the political order. Randall 1978 provides the background on Argentine economics during the 20th century, giving special consideration to the role of recurrent crises and reversal of economic policies in the explanation of economic development. Haverland 2009 concentrates on political, social, and economic issues, with special emphasis on the socioeconomic impact of globalization in Argentina’s society. A different perspective is offered in Calvert and Calvert 1989: it examines cultural variables to explain Argentina’s political instability and erratic economic performance. Lewis 1990 analyzes the role of the capitalist class, along with its evolution and relation with other key social actors throughout most of the 20th century.

  • Brown, Jonathan. Historia socioeconómica de la Argentina, 1776–1860. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo XXI de Argentina Editores, 2002.

    This research begins with a discussion of the colonial economy in the Río de la Plata area. It then focuses on the industrial markets for Argentine raw materials, the role of Buenos Aires in regional and international trade, the expansion of production in the Pampa, and the socioeconomic situation of the interior.

  • Calvert, Susan, and Peter Calvert. Argentina: Political Culture and Instability. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989.

    The author presents an account of Argentina, a country blessed with immense natural resources but that has so far failed to justify expectations. The cultural and political heritage is examined to help explain the political instability and economic underdevelopment of the country. Culture, Catholicism, liberalism, and personalism are among the influences discussed.

  • Haverland, Jeanne B., ed. Argentina: Economic, Political and Social Issues. New York: Nova Science, 2009.

    This book concentrates on the economic, political, and social issues facing Argentina. Specifically, it discusses the social consequences of globalization in Buenos Aires, the socioeconomic effect of the most recent economic crisis, rural development, education, and human rights.

  • Lewis, Paul H. The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

    This study describes the Argentine capitalists, their development, and their relationships with other groups that impinge upon them. The period covered is roughly from the turn of the 20th century through the first half of President Raúl Alfonsín’s administration.

  • Palacio, Ernesto. Historia de la Argentina, 1515–1976. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Abeledo-Perrot, 1984.

    This book is a detailed historical narrative of Argentina beginning with the arrival of the first Europeans, through the Spanish colonial period, independence, national consolidation, and the 20th century until 1976.

  • Randall, Laura. An Economic History of Argentina in the Twentieth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.

    This book gives a general background of the Argentine economy during the 20th century. The author argues that since World War I, Argentina has not been part of any other nation’s economic empire and therefore economically independent in all essentials. She also argues that specific government policies are key variables in explaining past economic development.

  • Rock, David. Argentina, 1516–1982: From Spanish Colonization to the Falklands War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

    In this comprehensive history, David Rock analyzes the early colonial history of Argentina, pointing to the colonial forms established during Spanish colonization as the source for Argentina’s continued dependence on foreign commercial and investment partnerships. The collapse of Argentina’s western European ties after World War II is subsequently seen as the underlying cause for her current economic and political crisis.

  • Romero, Luis Alberto. A History of Argentina in the Twentieth Century. Translated by James P. Brennan. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 2002.

    This book provides an overview of Argentina’s recent history and of the country’s problems. It addresses Argentina’s place in the world in the early 21st century; the characteristics, functions, and instruments that the state must have to ensure social welfare, regulate the economy, and establish justice; and the characteristics of a political system that is capable of ensuring democracy.

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