History and Latin America
Workers Go Shopping in Argentina: The Rise of Popular Consumer Culture
Winner of the 2014 Thomas McGann Award from the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies (RMCLAS)
In 1951 an Argentine newspaper announced that the standard of living of workers in Argentina was “the highest in the world.” More than half a century later, Argentines still look back to the mid-twentieth century as the “golden years of Peronism,” a time when working people, who had struggled to make ends meet a few years earlier, could now buy ready-made clothing, radios, and even big-ticket items like refrigerators. Milanesio explores this period marked by populist politics, industrialization, and a fairer distribution of the national income by analyzing the relations among consumers, consumer goods, manufacturers, advertising agents, and Juan Domingo Perón’s government (1946–1955).
Combining theories from the anthropology of consumption, cultural studies, and gender studies with the methodologies of social, cultural, and oral histories, Milanesio shows the exceptional cultural and social visibility of low-income consumers in postwar Argentina along with their unprecedented economic and political influence. Her study reveals the scope of the remarkable transformations fueled by the new market by examining the language and aesthetics of advertisement, the rise of middle- and upper-class anxieties, and the profound changes in gender expectations.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Natalia Milanesio is assistant professor of history at the University of Houston.
“Eloquently explains how the Argentine working class made a grand entrance into a pre-existing world of consumption during the period of Juan Domingo Perón. Milanesio convincingly argues that Perón supported such entrance because the making of workers into consumers complemented his plan for industrial growth, reinforced his image as an advocate of the working class, and served as a source of political legitimacy. Once developed as a social and cultural category, workers-consumers transformed advertising—giving this field a national flare—and created a distinctive working-class consumer identity that democratized access to public space, altered gender norms, and threatened middle-class status and conservative factions of Argentine society.”--
Julio Moreno, author of Yankee Don’t Go Home!: Mexican Nationalism, American Business Culture, and the Shaping of Modern Mexico, 1920–1950
“Natalia Milanesio’s fascinating account of working-class consumer culture generates a series of eye-opening insights that will reshape the dominant interpretations of Peronism. Her analysis of advertising as well as her attention to shifting gender roles constitute original contributions to the scholarship on what many historians consider the critical juncture in the modern history of Argentina. Equally impressive is her expert use of oral history to uncover what expanded consumption meant for workers themselves. This is a terrific book that is a must read for all historians of modern Argentina and for anyone interested in consumption and consumerism throughout Latin America.”--
Matthew B. Karush, author of Culture of Class: Radio and Cinema in the Making of a Divided Argentina, 1920–1946
6 x 9 in. 320 pages 20 halftones