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Reading: Exploring the origins of polarizing populism: Insights from the Peronist struggle over rights

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Exploring the origins of polarizing populism: Insights from the Peronist struggle over rights

Author:

Judith A Teichman

University of Toronto, CA
About Judith

Judith A. Teichman is Professor of Political Science and International Development at the University of Toronto and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She is the author of books and articles on politics and policymaking in Latin America, with a focus on Mexico, Argentina, and Chile. She has also carried out research on the role of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in market reform and social policy in Latin America.

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Abstract

Much of the literature on populism, including that on Peronism in Argentina, focuses on the us/them, good versus evil, nature of populist rhetoric as instrumental in polarizing society and eroding democracy. This work challenges this perspective by placing an analysis of Peron’s speeches (from 1943 to 1955) within the pre-existing historical context of division between urban elites and poor rural masses. The work argues that Peronist rhetoric, while shaped by this context, nevertheless developed its core populist features over time. Initially, Peronist discourse displayed conciliatory and inclusive features. It is only from 1949 that a Manichean discourse emerges, the consequence of an interactive process in which both Peronism and anti-Peronism become radicalized, each side responding to rhetoric and actions taken by opponents. Contestation comes to center on the issue of political versus social rights. These findings suggest that the widespread focus on populist rhetorical features as instrumental in creating political polarization may obfuscate more complex underlying processes. 

Resumen: Explorando los orígenes del populismo polarizador: Ideas sobre la lucha peronista por los derechos

Gran parte de la bibliografía sobre el populismo, incluida la relativa al peronismo en Argentina, se centra en la naturaleza del nosotros/ellos, el bien contra el mal, de la retórica populista como instrumento polarizador de la sociedad y erosionador de la democracia. Este trabajo desafía esta perspectiva al situar un análisis de los discursos de Perón (de 1943 a 1955) dentro del contexto histórico preexistente de división entre las élites urbanas y las masas rurales pobres. El trabajo argumenta que la retórica peronista, aunque moldeada por este contexto, desarrolló sin embargo sus rasgos populistas fundamentales a lo largo del tiempo. Inicialmente, el discurso peronista mostraba rasgos conciliadores e inclusivos. Sólo a partir de 1949 surge un discurso maniqueo, consecuencia de un proceso interactivo en el que tanto el peronismo como el antiperonismo se radicalizan, respondiendo cada bando a la retórica y a las acciones de los oponentes. La contestación llega a centrarse en la cuestión de los derechos políticos frente a los sociales. Estos hallazgos sugieren que el enfoque generalizado en las características retóricas de las listas populares como instrumento para crear la polarización política puede ofuscar procesos subyacentes más complejos. 

DOI: https://doi.org/10.32992/erlacs.10882
How to Cite: Teichman, J. A. (2022). Exploring the origins of polarizing populism: Insights from the Peronist struggle over rights. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (114), 67–87. DOI: http://doi.org/10.32992/erlacs.10882
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Published on 11 Oct 2022.
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