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Smith College

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Argentina: Regional Integration, Development, and Social Change


Although Argentina is known for its vibrant political life – illustrated by the country's high voter turnout in elections, regular protests in the central Plaza de Mayo, and an abundance of politicized conversations among citizens – the past few decades have witnessed a general loss of credibility in the traditional means of acquiring power in the state, notably the worker's union and the party. Accordingly, activism in Argentina's “new public space” (Bonvillani et al 2008: 63) that emerged after the political-economic crisis of 2001 has been defined less by the formal party-state apparatus than by autonomous social movements unaffiliated with union, party, or church. This transformation is consistent with related trends under neoliberalism, including the informalization of labor and urban fragmentation. That said, many Argentinians who came of age after 2001 continue to join local and national parties and become involved with party activism processes that require a high level of commitment. Why, then, do certain young people still choose to align themselves with parties? What role does the party play in their self-conception as activists? This study investigates these questions using data collected primarily from semi-structured interviews with young people in the Socialist Party (in Spanish, el Partido Socialista) and the Socialist Worker's Party (el Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas) in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It analyzes the motivations and activist identities of the participants, arguing that leftist party membership provides access to a defined ideological agenda, a formal connection to the international Socialist community, and a chance to see oneself as part of a longer historical narrative of political struggle. Furthermore, activist commitment is reinforced through interactions with other party members that form a kind of ideological “family”, sharing common beliefs, culture, and lifestyles. Finally, young leftist militants employ complex navigational structures to delineate between themselves and activists of other groups, thereby creating an “us” and a “them” in the context of the Argentinian political spectrum.


Civic and Community Engagement | Community-Based Research | Political Science | Politics and Social Change


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