Center for the History of Global Development

The long crisis of an idea

Models for development in Argentina between 1955 and 1976

Before 1976, Argentina had the strongest middle class in Latin America, the gap between rich and poor was low (0,36 Gini’s coefficient), and less than 3% of the total population was unemployed. The industrial sector was rising in the central cities. After three decades of import substitution, Argentine manufactured represented a significant part of the Gross Domestic Product. The labor force participation tended to be a half of the national income.

While the main social indicators were positive during the sixties and seventies, the country experienced a social and political upheaval: after the military coup in 1955, the banned Peronist Movement persisted in the working class. The disempowerment of Juan Domingo Perón had plunged the country into a limited democracy, set forth by the Armed Forces. In this context, several competing models for development demanded profound social changes in order to achieve stability: the idea of development was used by military commanders to strengthen internal security, Unionist Leaders demanded more political participation to expand industrial activities, and politicians from both conservative and revolutionary parties used the same term in opposite meanings. 

Understanding that a model for development is a set of policies that combine State strategies, economic transformations, and participation of the society, this research tries to identify the different proposals of the preeminent political actors, during one of the most complex periods of Argentine history. Based on the analysis of the diverse use of “development” by the main political actors of the period (Union Cívica Radical, Armed Forces, Peronist Movement and Left Parties) the project analyzes how contradictory understandings of the terms came to reflect underlying expectations and, in the long term, the crisis of a concept.

Researcher: Guillermo Salvador Marinaro