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February 2001
312 pages  

6 1/8 x 9 1/4
9780822957454
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Grassroots Expectations of Democracy and Economy
Argentina in Comparative Perspective
Powers, Nancy
Nancy Powers addresses fundamental questions about the interaction of politics and economics, and how ordinary people think about their standard of living and their government. Her book narrows the gaps in the existing scholarship on economic voting, social movements, and populism, and works to untangle the field’s inherent contradictions.

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Nancy R. Powers is assistant professor of political science at Florida State University. Her research focuses on the political ideas of nonelites (ordinary members of society), poverty and material hardship, economic development, and the quality of democracy in Latin America. She has published in the Canadian Journal of Political Science and the Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs. She received her doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.
Grassroots Expectations of Democracy and Economy provides a fascinating analysis of the different perceptions that non-elite Argentineans have about their own interests and how they are connected with the neoliberal policies implemented by President Menem. This book challenges simplistic views that take economic interest for granted in the study of policy preferences by focusing on the complex mechanisms that link the perception between personal conditions and political demands among the Argentine poor. It is a well-written book on an important and timely topic.”—M. Victoria Murillo, Yale University

“In Grassroots Expectations of Democracy and Economy, Nancy Powers advances a novel perspective on a fundamental and unresolved puzzle: how do ordinary ctizens think and act as they confront economic hard times under conditions of democratic politics?. . . Grassroots Expectations is particularly pertinent to the study of individual cognitive processes and their implication for collective political action; to grassroots politics and social movements, to the political economy of market reform; and to debates on the consolidation and ‘quality’ of new democracies.”—William C. Smith, University of Miami

“This timely volume addresses one of the most interesting political questions raised in the context of Argentina’s—and Latin America’s—recent transition to liberal democracy and free markets: why do poor people continue to support democratic regimes and neoliberal administrations that have failed to improve their standards of living or that have even worsened them by fostering unemployment and regressive income distribution? The author offers thoughtful answers to this question by examining how Argentine poverty-stricken citizens perceive their material needs, define their socioeconomic interests and follow different paths to develop their political views and convey their demands. The relevance of these issues and the author’s meaningful empirical analysis, and theoretical insights make this book a valuable addition to the literature on Latin American politics in the era of liberal democracy and economic neoliberalism.”—Aldo C. Vacs, Skidmore College

“This thought-provoking, readable example of how qualitative analysis can abe used to reconsider existing theories is highly recommended for advanced undergraduates and above.”-C. H. Blake, James Madison University

“Her most important finding is that political attitudes and loyalties were seldom linked to material benefits in ‘quid pro quo’ fashion. . . . Among this book’s many merits is a self-conscious and insightful approach to the use of qualitative methods. . . . the book’s greatest value is to those scholars who impersonate or internalize the beliefs of those about whom they are writing. And that is, regrettably, too many of us.”Jorge I. Dominguez, The Review of Politics, Summer 2002

“ . . . offers a wealth of insights into the conditions under which poor people respond--or do not respond--politically to material deprivation. “Steven Levitsky, Comparative Politics, September 2002

“In an effort to understand at least some of the underlying foundations of the tumult in the streets of Buenos Aires and many of the provinces of Argentina in 2002, one compelling place to turn is this book. . . valuable insights into the politics of Argentina’s grass roots. Students of political economy, democracy, Latlin American politics, and social movements are recommended to take advantage of what ‘Grassroots Expectations’ has to offer.” Jeffrey R. Webber, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2002)

“ . . . superb study of poverty in Argentina. . . . Powers not only provides solid answers to important questions about the behavior of the poor; she also raises an important paradox for future thinkers to unravel.” --Latin American Politics and Society

“ . . . a strong contribution to current debates . . . a useful guide to future research into this area.”--Journal of Latin American Studies

“A lovely book. It is full of insights, shedding light on one of the thorniest and most important theoretical questins in political science.”--emocratization

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This highly readable study addresses a range of fundamental questions about the interaction of politics and economics, from a grassroots perspective in post-transition Argentina. Nancy R. Powers looks at the lives and political views of Argentines of little to modest means to examine systematically how their political interests, and their evaluations of democracy, are formed. Based on the author’s fieldwork in Argentina, the analysis extends to countries of Latin America and Eastern Europe facing similarly difficult political and economic changes. Powers uses in-depth interviews to examine how (not simply what) ordinary people think about their standard of living, their government, and the democratic regime. She explains why they sometimes do, but more often do not, see their material conditions as political problems, arguing that the type of hardship and the possibilities for coping with it are more politically significant than the degree of hardship. She analyzes alternative ways in which people define democracy and judge its legitimacy. Not only does Powers demonstrate contradictions and gaps in the existing scholarship on economic voting, social movements, and populism, she also shows how those literatures are addressing similar questions but are failing to “talk” to one another. Powers goes on to build a more comprehensive theory of how people at the grassroots form their political interests. To analyze why people perceive only some of their material hardships as political problems, she brings into the study of politics ideas drawn from Amartya Sen and other scholars of poverty.
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