Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bates, Argentina, and Violence

Although Robert Bates argues that societies governed by states and not kinship groups
are those that are developed, his theory is only partly applicable to Argentina. Clearly, one must take into account the definition to be used to define a developed country when examining Argentina or any other state. While the country is (as of this year) a member of the G20, most Argentines refer to their country as the third world. Additionally, although it is considered an upper-middle income country by the World Bank, it does not rank in the upper echelon of The Economist’s Quality-of-life survey, the IMF advanced economy list, nor the UN’s Human Development Index. This makes sense considering that while Argentina a large country in territory and population, its GDP per capita is only slightly above the world average according to World Bank, IMF and CIA estimates.

Returning to Bates’ argument, there is little doubt that Argentina’s government is clearly in charge politically and economically, when it chooses to. The country’s violent past is clearly apparent through conversations with Argentines, but also physically throughout the city. For those unaware, Argentina’s military dictatorships and “dirty war” consisting of extreme government oppression left about 30,000 people “disappeared.” These enemies of the state, overwhelmingly students and professors, were victims of kidnapping, torture, and murder. Much more detailed information can be found through any web search. The following are two links about the topic from Wikipedia and George Washington University respectively.


The most common physical signs of Argentina’s violent past include memorials, mass graves, and graffiti. Many clues about the events which occurred, continue to unravel including recently as construction workers found thousands of human bones while working on a new freeway. Throughout the city large posters are apparent which condemn the past acts of suppression and murder, including in the sights where massive graves are found. These posters often show the photos of the government’s victims. Furthermore, reminders of the dictatorship led war of attempted reclaiming of the British controlled Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) are omnipresent. Particularly attention grabbing is the continuing occupation of the Plaza de Mayo (the city’s main plaza) by protesting veterans of the war. The city is also covered in anti-military/dictatorship graffiti, typically with slogans such as “Nunca Más” (Never again). It is also extremely easy to access information about the violence through personal anecdotes from any adult. In example includes the host mother of one of my friends; she was kidnapped and incarcerated by the government during the military rule.


  1. Hey danny, on a side note not related to the pols 295 class, could you tell me if anyone has recommended to you any literature directly dealing with los desparecidos? I'm reading respiracion artificial right now but am working on an honors project for spanish on collective memory of the military dicatatorship and am looking at literature, plays, and films that were written during the period or after... just in case you have any ideas, I'd really appreciate it. Also, maybe you could send me an e-mail (hillary.allison@gmail) because I'd love to hear about what people are saying now about it... it's so incredible that mass graves are still being found

  2. For films, there are plenty. One in particular which might interest you is "La Noche de las Lapices." I definitely know there are a lot of articles about the issue, but the ones I am familiar with are in Spanish - is that ok?

  3. yeah! I'm doing it for honors in spanish so most of what i am reading is in spanish, and i'm really lacking in materials. Pass on any and everything you can think of - I need all the help I can get. Thank you so much! I honestly am so happy to have some guidance. i can't find that movie on netflix, so I'm inter-library loaning it. They've been able to get most films for me. Agradezo tu apoyo y consejo!

  4. Hey Danny,
    You said that the government is in charge politically and economically and I was wondering if you could be specific about how they maintain this control and say whether or not it seems to be good for Argentina's prosperity. In your view and the view of the general public, are there certain policies or departments within the democracy that stand out as good or bad? Has the context of post dictatorship and war Argentina put a lot of faith in the democracy or maybe just left the public very skeptical of any government?