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The Agony of Argentine Capitalism: From Menem to the Kirchners Paperback – 22 Jun 2009

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"Lewis presents the third in a trilogy that includes The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism, which explored the political economy of Argentina from the late 19th century through the rule of Juan Peron, and Guerillas and Generals: The 'Dirty War' in Argentina, which concentrated on the causes and effects of political violence in the 1970s. In this volume, he returns to the political economy focus of the first volume, discussing the efforts of President Menem and President De la Rua to push through free trade policies and criticizing the populist policies of the later governments of Cristina and Nestor Kirchner, who he argues seek to 'extend state control to all aspects of the economy and to redistribute income derived from the most efficient sector, agriculture,' and threaten to repeat the mistakes of Peron, who Lewis blames for the chronic 'stagflation' (stagnant production and persistent inflation) that plagued the Argentine economy through the 1980s." - Reference & Research Book News "Lewis provides a first-rate analysis of the political processes leading to the implosion of the Argentine economy in December 2001... Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above." - Choice --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Paul H. Lewis is professor emeritus of political science at Tulane University, New Orleans, LA. He is the author of nine books, including the Praeger's Guerrillas and Generals: The "Dirty War" in Argentina and Latin Fascist Elites: The Mussolini, Franco, and Salazar Regimes.

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This isn't a gringo's book 28 Aug. 2009
By Dalton C. Rocha - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this excellent book, here in Brazil. This book has twelve chapters. The first chapter has this title:" The rise to power".The last chapter has this title: "Defiance". This book isn't outdated, because it ends in the last year.
This book describes Argentina as a political and economic joke, an unhappy nation legendary, in the last eighty years, for an economic crise. About eighty years ago, Argentina was one of the world's emerging powers. Today, Argentina is Argentina. A national decline on that scale did not just happen: it was the result of decades of struggle and systematic endeavor, led by the nation's elite. And this book talks about the last decades of this decline. As the Argentine great writer Jorge Luis Borges once told: Only generations of statesmanship could have prevented Argentina from becoming a world power.
Some excellents parts of this book:
1-Page 12:"Meanwhile, the proceso gradually imploded. Its "dirty war"tactics - such as mass arrests and torture - suceeded in smashing the guerrillas, but it failed to reform the economy or end corruption."
2-Page 16:"Hyper-inflation brought with it economic paralysis, social disruption, and political irrationality. Since prices changed daily - even hourly - production halted and stores closed because no one knew what prices to change. Consumption droped too, because wages couldn't keep up. With inflation running close to 200 percent a month, on payday workers would rush to the stores to spend their wages before they became worthless; by the end of the month they might be reduced to bartering. Many workers were laid off."
3-Page 24:"The proceso's ineffectual attempts at reform were followed by a return to the closed economy. Alfonsín not only refused to pay on Argentina's foreign debt, but also increased tariffs and issued a long list of of goods that could not be imported."
4-Page 68:"Nor was Alfonsin's government innocent of all this. In 1985 Alfonsín signed a secret executive order allowing the air force to provide Iraq with parts for producing a missile, and two years later he signed another secret order setting up a factory in Córdoba province to manufacture a solid, combustible fuel for launching long range missiles."
5-Page 90:"The poorer the province, the greater was the need to use the public sector to provide jobs and prevent emigration. One provincial governor admitted that his payroll was larded with superfluous employees, but defended the practice."
6-Page 118:"The deficit had to be covered somehow, but how? Tariff receipts were down because the peso was pegged to the dollar, and the dollar had continued to appreciate, pricing Argentina's exports out of world markets."
7-Page 134:"De La Rua's government was unable to raise any more foreign loans. By them the United States was preparing for the "War on Terror," following Al Qaida's 11 September attacks on the Twin Towers, and "had no interest in... a geopolitically insignificant country that was busily, stupidly, destroying itself."
8-Page 147:"In the past, Argentina had been able to avoid painful cuts in government spending by borrowing from abroad. Now neither European nor American investors were willing to lend any more money unless the IMF certified that the Argentines were actually making progress in briging their budget deficits under control - which the IMF was not willing to do. Since the end of the Proceso, it had loaned a total of some $30.6 bilion to bolster the newly recovered democracy, but now its patience was at an end."
9-Page 154:"Kirchner was not swept along by apparent success of neo-liberalism. He was critical of economic policies that he considered speculative and harmful to national interests. He also expressed strong dissent for Menem's pardons of the Proceso's junta leaders, and placed himself firmly on the side of the human rights organizations that were protesting. He did not, however, criticize Menem's pardons of the top Montoneros, or show any sympathy for victims of the terrorist left."
The text of this book eneds on page 192, when in the last two lines, we can read:"Argentina seems stuck in a three-cornered political standoff, while its capitalist economy continues its agonizing downward course."
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
So much data, wrapped up in so much bias. 13 Dec. 2014
By James - Published on
Format: Paperback
Lots of detail, but like in his previous work on the subject, 'The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism', Lewis finds himself overly (exclusively?) dependent for sources and opinions on Argentina's right-wing landowning elite and their mouthpieces - who are richer than ever but chafe at the fact that their egos aren't being properly massaged (sound familiar?). These, of course, are the same people who bankrupted the country in a wave of banking deregulation and atrocities during the dictatorship in the early 1980s (a fact Lewis glosses over almost completely both here and in 'Crisis').

The book is a good resource for specific bits of data, but not so if you're looking for unbiased conclusions. What you'll find instead is a grab bag of selectively chosen tales of woe, often out of context, and never mentioning the simple fact that contrary to all predictions big business is making and investing more money than ever in Argentina - even as living standards for average people have dramatically improved from the lows of a decade or so ago. Not that Señor Lewis apparently cares.
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