Chapter 6: Rethinking Political Opportunity Structure in the Argentine Unemployed and Poor People’s Movement
Koichi Usami INTRODUCTION In Argentina, road blockades by unemployed and poor people have become ubiquitous since the early 2000s. The people picketing roads to demand that the government provide more social assistance and jobs are called piqueteros. The road blocks proved quite effective for realizing these demands, but they have stagnated since 2003, when the Néstor Kirchner government restored economic stability and expanded social assistance programs. A large body of literature applying various social movement theories has described and analyzed this movement. Political opportunity structure (POS) theory is one of the most frequently used, but its ambiguity is not usually acknowledged. For example, Gamson and Meyer (1996, p. 275) criticized POS theory for trying to explain everything, without explaining anything. The POS approach, therefore, should be used only after first defining it clearly and then specifying the place, situation and other factors in which the social movement occurs. Such elaboration would reveal the conditions in which POS might function to increase road block protests. This chapter will analyze road block protests by unemployed and poor people in Argentina from their onset until their decline (McAdam 1982, p. 36), focusing on political opportunity structure. In terms of POS theory, attention is focused on such conditions as socio-economic circumstances, the experience of the protesters, their resources and the political organizations in which POS is relevant to the expansion of the protests. 134 Rethinking political opportunity structure in Argentina 135 CRITICISM OF PREVIOUS STUDIES AND DEFINITION OF POLITICAL OPPORTUNITY STRUCTURE Previous Studies...
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