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The Social Context of Action

The Social Context of Action

Economy, Infrastructure, and Social Organization

(p.58) 2 The Social Context of Action
Revolutionizing Repertoires
Robert S. Jansen
University of Chicago Press

This chapter provides an overview of the significant social-structural transformations that Peru experienced in the first decades of the twentieth century. It then goes on to consider how the significance of these transformations should be understood. This exercise serves two important purposes for the book’s overall argument. First, it demonstrates that the dominant structuralist theories of populism cannot adequately explain the rise of populist mobilization in Peru. Second, it suggests that social-structural conditions matter, but not in the way that traditional structuralists think they do. While changing social conditions did not make populist mobilization inevitable, they did make it newly possible by generating new grievances, making new groups of potential supporters both politically available and logistically reachable, and laying the social groundwork for political organization and mobilization. Just as important, they formed part of the social context of action to which politicians of the day were subjectively oriented as they elaborated their lines of political action. The chapter argues that populist mobilization emerged in Peru in 1931 not because conditions were ripe, but because changes in what were still unripe conditions spurred creative action by contingently empowered political outsiders who were attuned to the possibilities that they afforded.

Keywords:   context of action, contingency, Peru, political action, political outsiders, populist mobilization, social conditions, structuralist theories

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