Seminar with Ph.D. candidate Pablo Pryluka, Princeton University
In 1973, a new Peronist coalition won the national elections in Argentina. Having spent 18 years of exile in Spain, Juan Domingo Perón returned to his native country backed by a political agreement between trade unions and the Confederación General Empresaria. Together, this coalition promised to achieve what it called “national liberation.” Under the banner of national liberation, the government tried to mitigate what it considered to be the pernicious effects of advertising: the creation of “false” needs and superfluous patterns of consumption. Implementing price controls, the Subsecretary of Commerce prohibited corporations from including advertising expenditures in the business costs that would be factored into newly fixed sale prices.
This policy was in response to a long-standing debate over the effects of advertising and TV on consumption patterns in Argentina during the 1960s and early 1970s. For many economists, experts, and intellectuals of the time, Argentina exhibited two characteristics: it was a mass consumption society. And it was also “underdeveloped”: a peripheral nation in the world economy. Mutually reinforcing, by the logic of the time, it was precisely consumerism, fostered by the advertising industry, that produced underdevelopment in the first place. Local elites imitated consumption patterns from developed countries; by increasing the number of luxury imports, this behavior deprived Argentina of productive investments. This consumption-underdevelopment thesis became a consensus. By 1973, it was a theory that supported the regulation of advertising. In this paper, I argue that this consensus was in fact mistaken. This paper traces the origins of that consensus and reconstructs the expansion of TV consumption and the advertising industry in Argentina during the 1960s. At least in comparison to the rest of South America, and to some European countries, I show that—far from an underdeveloped economy—the country is best understood as an integrated national market.
Pablo Pryluka is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Princeton University. He did his undergraduate studies at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and earned a master’s in History at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. He has received grants from the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (Argentina) and the Fulbright Commission. At the same time, he was an exchange student at the Freie Universität in 2019 and took part in different collaborative projects: he was involved in the Princeton-Humboldt Collaborative project “Contesting and Converging Stories of Global Order: Regional and National Narratives” between 2018 and 2019 and the Global History Summer Schools hosted in Berlin (2017) and Tokio (2019).
Pryluka’s main fields of interest are modern Latin American History and Global History, with a focus on social and economic history. His dissertation aims to provide a comparative analysis of patterns of consumption and inequality in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile during the state-led industrialization years (1930s-1970s). The dissertation addresses the social performance of state-led industrialization and its impact on inequality, looking at patterns of consumption of three specific consumer goods: refrigerators, automobiles, and televisions. He is interested not only in who had access to these goods, but also both the meanings involved in their consumption and the expectations of consumers in terms of socioeconomic status.