Final Public Oral Exam: Pablo Pryluka

Developing Consumers: A History of Wants and Needs in Postwar South America
Monday, July 1, 2024, 10:00 am12:00 pm


Event Description


Jeremy Adelman, adviser
Harold James
Miguel Centeno
Barbara Weinstein, New York University


Developing Consumers: A History of Wants and Needs in Postwar South America, proposes a comparative social and economic history of the developmental years in South America, between the 1950s and the mid-1970s. After the end of World War II, countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Chile applied developmental strategies that aimed to guarantee economic sovereignty, improve the standard of living, and expand domestic markets. While these strategies resulted in the wider availability of new durable goods, access did not expand uniformly through social groups, and the degree of class, gender, and racial inequality varied significantly in the three countries. However, these goods became emblematic of modern wellbeing over the 1960s. Developing Consumers explores how people experienced this transformation, with a particular focus on the access to refrigerators, automobiles, and televisions. By the end of the decade, it became evident that the developmental state could not guarantee social mobility and universal access to this new standard of living, frustrating consumers’ expectations.

In response to these difficulties, policymakers, marketing experts, and intellectuals took part in a debate about rationalizing consumption: which needs should be covered for everyone and which ones were artificial desires of affluent groups? The answers of developmental politics to consumers’ frustrations varied in each country: the Brazilian dictatorship (1964-1985) consolidated a pattern of unequal access to consumption where small urban elites with full access to durable goods coexisted with poor urban groups and rural populations excluded from mass consumption. In contrast, the Socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile (1970-1973) and the third Peronist government in Argentina (1973-1976) defended consumption as an act of material justice and promoted radical measures of income distribution that ended in economic crises. Amidst these upheavals, military dictatorships took power and dismantled the institutional apparatus of the developmental state.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Contact Lee Horinko for a copy of the dissertation and the Zoom meeting link and password.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Lee Horinko Reed
20th Century
Latin America and the Caribbean
Scholarly Series
Dissertation Defense