✍ Politics, Economics and Society in Argentina in the Revolutionary Period [1975]

por Teoría de la historia

9780521109031_p0_v1_s260x420The appearance of this translation of Revolución y guerra. Formación de una elite dirigente en la Argentina criolla (1972) will give English reading public a greater access to an important study of Argentine independence. Professor Halperin-Donghi, now of the University of California at Berkeley, bases his study upon new monographic literature and upon the findings of his own archival research. His central thesis is that the independence movement in Argentina was emphatically bourgeois. The wars of independence, he argues, first created, then destroyed, and finally recreated a new creole elite class. The author prepares the ground for independence by discussing the role which British contraband and armed invasion played in disrupting the colonial order. He dispenses with the customary personalist/caudillismo explanations of militarism, preferring to view the army as an institution. He stresses its professional characteristics and demonstrates that its ranks were not only full of political aspirants, but that the larger society looked to it as a source of potential leadership. Halperin explores creole elite participation and motivation in thoroughgoing fashion. His conclusion is somewhat paradoxical: the urban elite’s resurrection and triumph was made possible through the very processes of ruralization, militarization, and “barbarization” of political power which had seemed to obstruct its rise. The relative simplicity of Halperin’s conclusions should not be taken to suggest a simple-minded approach to his topic. On the contrary, the author has pursued a great number of secondary themes and weaves many illuminating digressions into the fabric of his narrative. He studies events in the provinces as well as in Buenos Aires, and he provides detailed analyses of leadership in social, economic, and political spheres. The work leaves one with a sense of the profound complexity of the independence process. Halperin writes in a narrative-analysis style which demands extremely close attention on the part of his reader. It is regrettable that the labyrinthine prose which was quite acceptable in the Spanish has been rendered into an unrelenting, contorted English. Six, seven, even nineline sentences containing every conceivable form of punctuation appear with regularity. This is a careful and detailed piece of interpretation. Unfortunately it will not be a volume found in the typical undergraduate’s book bag, notwithstanding the English translation. Rather, it will remain a study which specialists will ponder and debate.

[Gertrude MATYOKA YEAGER. “Halperin-Donghi, Tulio Politics, Economics and Society in Argentina in the Revolutionary Period (Cambridge Latin American Studies 18) New York: Cambridge University Press Publication Date: June 27, 1975” (reseña), in History. Reviews of New Books, vol. III, nº 10, 1975, p. 256]