Dictatorship, Democracy, and Globalization

Argentina and the Cost of Paralysis, 19732001

By (author) Klaus Friedrich Veigel

Hardback - £57.95

Publication date:

02 April 2009

Length of book:

248 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271034645

The collapse of the Argentine economy in 2001, involving the extraordinary default on $150 billion in debt, has been blamed variously on the failure of neoliberal policies or on the failure of the Argentine government to pursue those policies vigorously enough during the 1990s. But this is too myopic a view, Klaus Veigel contends, to provide a fully satisfactory explanation of how a country enjoying one of the highest standards of living at the end of the nineteenth century became a virtual economic basket case by the end of the twentieth. Veigel asks us to take the long view of Argentina’s efforts to re-create the conditions for stability and consensus that had brought such great success during the country’s first experience with globalization a century ago.

The experience of war and depression in the late 1930s and early 1940s had discredited the earlier reliance on economic liberalism. In its place came a turn toward a corporatist system of interest representation and state-led, inward-oriented economic policies. But as major changes in the world economy heralded a new era of globalization in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the corporatist system broke down, and no social class or economic interest group was strong enough to create a new social consensus with respect to Argentina’s economic order and role in the world economy. The result was political paralysis leading to economic stagnation as both civilian and military governments oscillated between protectionism and liberalization in their economic policies, which finally brought the country to its nadir in 2001.

“Veigel’s book addresses an issue that has been at the center of much research in the past. What does explain the steady economic decay of Argentina, particularly from the 1970s onward? Many scholars ascribe the recurring economic crises of that country to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s imposition of misguided policies. Veigel’s thesis challenges this view, as it contends that the seeds of the Argentine decline rest in the socioeconomic disintegration that began to affect that country from the 1940s on as vested interest groups engaged in a zero-sum-game struggle. If things went terribly wrong in Argentina in the twentieth century, it is not because that country was the victim of an international conspiracy. Instead, much of the blame is to be placed squarely on the Argentine political and economic elites. Through the use of new archival data and personal interviews, Veigel traces the historical evolution of Argentine policymaking as resulting primarily from endogenous rather than external factors. Veigel’s work is an excellent contribution to the scholarship on the political economy of Argentina and will make an important point of reference for future works on this controversial subject.”

—Luigi Manzetti, Southern Methodist University