Authoritarianism and Democratization: Soldiers and Workers in Argentina, 1976-1983
Munck, Gerardo L, Political and Military Sociology
Authoritarianism and Democratization: Soldiers and Workers in Argentina, 1976-1983 by Russell C. Crandall, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998, (334 pages,)
The uncertainty now brewing in Chile surrounding the arrest of former dictator Augusto Pinochet is a firm reminder that the issue of transition from authoritarian to democratic rule is complex and potentially destabilizing. In Chile, the transition to civilian rule in 1990 was what political scientists call "pacted", in this case characterized by an agreement between the Pinochet government and the opposition that, in return for greater democracy, ensured the dictator's immunity and continued political influence. The Argentine transition to democracy in 1983, on the other hand, was "unpacted" and saw a discredited and humiliated military virtually disappear from the political realm.
Gerardo Munck, in his book Authoritarianism and Democratization, takes a look at a period of authoritarian rule in Argentina (1976-1983), specifically focusing on the dynamics between the military and organized labor. His work is a fine case study of state-society relations in Argentina and further synthesizes the academic work on regime change.
Munck presents his thesis within the theoretical framework of what he labels the "political institutional model" that divides the phases of a regime into: origins, evolution, and transition. Munck's main thesis posits that upon seizing power from the imploding government of Isabel Peron, the Argentine military faced an institutional crisis endemic to all newly installed regimes-- that of creating a legitimate government. Part of the solution, the military believed, would invariably involve dealing with the vociferous and influential organized labor movement that was first given a political role under Juan Peron. The military eventually decided that the best way to deal with labor would be with a combination of both repression and co-optation in order to turn workers into "responsible allies". Ultimately, however, Munck believes that this strategy, as well as the military's experiment with political rule in general, was doomed by a "lack of cohesion" within the ranks. In other words, in the process of dividing and conquering the labor movement, the military soon discovered that it had divided and conquered itself.
The author's most stimulating assertion- and something that will surely provoke debate within the relevant academic community-- is that the 1982 Falkland Islands fiasco was not the crucial element in the military's subsequent removal from power. …