South American Society

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South American Society


The southern continent of the Western Hemisphere is divided into 11 republics and two European possessions. This article focuses on the nine Spanish-speaking countries which encompass 58 per cent of the continental area and half of its total population of 165 million. It does not discuss the Portuguese-speaking country of Brazil, the English-speaking republic of Guyana (formerly British Guiana), or the two remaining colonies, French Guiana and Surinam (Dutch Guiana).

The Spanish-speaking countries of South America share common institutional features that inhere in cross-national configurations of law, administration, religion, and status assignment, all having historical roots in the ideals and orientations of postmedieval Spain (Haring 1947; Morse 1964). Spanish South America merits attention as a distinctive social order whose properties are illuminated by comparison with other regional cultures or complex civilizations. There are at least six major contexts for such comparisons: values and beliefs (Mackay 1932; Gillin 1955; Fillol 1961; Grafia 1962-1963; Zea 1949; Dore 1964; Lipset 1967); intergroup relations, including stratification (Tannenbaum 1947; Beals 1953; Elkins 1959; Council on Foreign Relations I960; Whiteford I960; Horowitz 1966); agrarian structures (McBride 1933; Simpson 1929; Bagu 1952); demographic patterns and urbanization (Seminar on Urbanization Problems . . . 1961; Davis 1964; Morse 1965); political and educational institutions (Kling 1956; Lipset 1959; Hagen 1962; Ben-David & Collins 1966; Ribeiro 1967); and economic growth in relation to the international system of markets and trade (United Nations 1950; Baran 1957; Hirschman 1958; Rosenstein-Rodan 1961). In all of these contexts, South America stands as a special variant of western European civilization. To classify these nations as “underdeveloped” or as “transitional societies” is to ignore their distinctive qualities and to oversimplify the description of an extremely complex sector of the contemporary world. Therefore, any attempt to examine these complexities within a single conceptual framework necessarily involves selective judgments by the observer; in this article, the emphasis is on the relationships between culture, institutions, and social change.

Despite the presence of crosscutting institutional features, the Spanish South American countries manifest conspicuous differences in a number of dimensions (Wagley & Harris 1955; Vekemans & Segundo 1963). The southern cone countries—Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay—are the most modernized in regard to level of living, size of the middle class, birth rates, strength of industry, and composition of the labor force. Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador—the Andean republics—share common extremes in terrain and climate and are distinguished socially by their large Indian populations. Despite planned acculturation programs, these indigenous groups remain largely isolated from the values and influences of the modern urban centers. Paraguay has a good climate and rich soil; its population includes the Guarani Indians, whose language constitutes a distinctive contribution to South American culture. The northern countries of Venezuela and Colombia have mixed populations containing both Indians and Negroes. Venezuela has experienced a remarkable economic growth largely because of a major oil boom. Her population is growing and urbanizing rapidly and is centered largely in Caracas. Colombia, a major coffee producer for the world market, is a nation developed around a series of inland valleys and multiple urban centers, each with a distinctive history and self-image.

Yearly per capita incomes vary from $648 in Venezuela to $99 in Bolivia. Illiteracy rates for those over 15 years of age range from about 70 per cent in Bolivia to less than 14 per cent in Argen-tina. Health facilities also vary widely: the ratio of doctors to total population in Bolivia is one to 3,900, while in Argentina it is one to 660 (the U.S. rate is one to 780; Russett et al. 1964). These differences generally correlate with differences in other features of the society, such as power distribution, rate of economic growth, the nature of the class system, and demographic composition. (See Table 1.)

Caution must be exercised in drawing inferences about institutional change from these aggregate data. Statistical patterns do not provide reliable indicators of basic structural developments; consequently, the frequent use of economic factors as primary explanatory variables is rapidly being superseded by investigations of historical configurations (Morse 1964), social structure (Lipset 1967; Bonilla 1967; Horowitz 1967; Landsberger 1967), religion (Vallier 1967), and patterns of identity and motivation (Hagen 1962).

Spanish South America constitutes one of the last world areas in which traditional European-Christian values are undergoing the evolutionary changes which attend industrialization and secularization. Uruguay and Argentina have moved through an initial secular-industrial phase and seem to be on a developmental plateau. Though hindered by demographic dislocations and problems of economic development, Chile and Venezuela have been progressively institutionalizing stable political systems, thus developing bases for setting and implementing collective priorities. Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia are handicapped by deep ethnic cleavages between their large Indian populations and their Spanish and mestizo elites, but they are working toward more coherent integrative and distributive structures, which will aid in sustaining economic growth. Finally, Paraguay and Ecuador

Table 1 — Indicators of economic and political development in Spanish South America
 Gnp per capita (in dollars)Per cent urbanaPer cent literatebUniversity students per 100,000 populationInhabitants per physicianRadios per 1,000 populationPer cent vofingcPercentage of population in militaryd
a. Percentage of population in cities of over 20,000 population.
b. Percentage of population aged 15 and over.
c. Votes in national election as a percentage of voting-age population.
d. Percentage of population aged 15-64 in the armed forces.
Source: Adapted from Russett et al. 1964, table B.2, pp. 294-297.

are in the introductory stages of awareness and aspiration for change; they have realized that the world is moving past them.

One of the major emerging links between South America‘s Roman Catholic-based values and its political development is Christian democracy. Christian Democratic parties now hold national prominence in Chile and Venezuela and to some extent in Argentina and Peru. Although Christian Democratic parties are explicitly nonconfessional, they frame their ideologies and programs of social reform in relation to Christian principles. Moreover, many of the key party leaders earlier held positions in church-sponsored lay organizations, such as Catholic Action. The Christian Democratic parties represent an important line of political differentiation and development in South America, since they hold a potential for aligning social change with Christian ideas, yet are independent of the church.

The rise of Christian Democratic movements in South America is only one of the more recent distinctive political developments of the past forty years. Aprismo in Peru, Peronismo in Argentina, Action Democratica in Venezuela, and the Movimiento Nacional Revolutionario in Bolivia, although based on radically different ideologies and political strategies, share broad features, including goals of social justice, the incorporation of marginal status groups into national life, and economic growth based on autonomy from international controls. Except for Aprismo, all of these movements have gained national governmental power. Each in turn has encountered difficulties in resolving the problems inherent in pursuing social justice and economic growth simultaneously on a short-run basis. These difficulties have usually provoked one of three outcomes: a dilution of the program for change in order to retain the support of key economic groups; the internal fragmentation of party leadership and an accompanying loss of momentum; or a more decided emphasis on radical change, which in turn stimulates the interference of the military.

In the international arena, the Spanish South American countries manifest three major orientations. Their cultural, literary, and intellectual life is closely linked with that of France and Spain. Economically, they are most heavily involved with the United States. On the political and philosophical levels, they have been heavily influenced by doctrines and theories which emerged from the Enlightenment and such nineteenth-century thought systems as positivism, economic liberalism, and evolutionary theory (Zea 1949). However, since World War n, and especially since 1960, they have shifted their international orientations more toward the developing countries of the “third world” (Horowitz 1966).

The most distinctive demographic characteristic of South America is its rate of natural increase, which is the highest in the world. It has reached an annual average of 2.7 per cent and is expected to go higher. The rapid adoption of modern health practices, which has reduced mortality, and traditional attitudes against contraception have placed these countries—with the exception of Argentina, Bolivia, and Uruguay—in a high growth phase, despite high infant mortality rates.

As a whole, the population is relatively young, and a large proportion of it is underfed and afflicted with respiratory and intestinal diseases. No one who is familiar with the health, housing, and educational needs of South America‘s poor can fail to grasp the human implications of rapid population expansion.

The ecological configuration of South America is marked chiefly by a low ratio of people to land. The United States, which is considerably below the world average, has approximately 53 persons per square mile. In South America the highest densities are found in Ecuador, Uruguay, and Colombia, which have 45, 37, and 34 persons per square mile, respectively. Argentina has 20 persons per square mile, and Bolivia has only 8. Yet these low densities can be misleading, for the dominant South American settlement pattern is that of an immense urban concentration, with a sparsely settled hinterland dotted with towns and small cities. Buenos Aires, for instance, contains more than 40 per cent of Argentina‘s total urban population and over 30 per cent of the national population (Statistical Abstract of Latin America 1966). Because these “primate” cities are not functionally integrated or specialized along lines of commerce, industry, or finance, major portions of their populations live in marginal settlements characterized by poverty, isolation, and social disorganization (Morse 1965). There is heavy migration from the rural areas to the cities, a process which crowds even more masses of the unskilled, unemployed, homeless, and hungry into areas al-ready deficient in economic growth, transportation, housing, and public services of all kinds.

The role of the Roman Catholic church. The Roman Catholic church arrived in South America with the conquistadors and subsequently served as one of Spain‘s major instruments for bringing the indigenous population under supervisory control (Mecham 1934). Thus, the church stressed territorial coverage rather than pastoral development and was itself subject to secular control. The crown‘s various prerogatives over church functioning placed religious leaders in a frustrating position, for secular priorities determined the principles guiding religious operations. On the other hand, the church was protected by the crown from religious competition through special institutions, such as the Holy Office of the Inquisition, which were designed to maintain the Catholic monopoly (De Egafia 1966). The result of this combination of subordination and protection was a de-centralized, uncoordinated, and spiritually weak church. The South American Roman Catholic church evolved as a series of relatively isolated ecclesiastical units, each of which was strongly linked to the superstructure of the colonial enterprise. Its activities and allocation of resources were not governed by a shared set of religious objectives and universal norms, and the clergy, internally divided and oriented to secular elites, found it impossible to generate and maintain a stable position of moral authority. In short, they failed to create and institutionalize a religio-moral foundation for the growth of value consensus; instead, a decisive and enduring tie between secular political power and the central religious institution was established (Vallier 1967).

During the seventeenth century a deep cleavage developed between the official Roman Catholic church and the Catholic religion as it was practiced by the common people, and this gap between the ecclesia and individual spiritual needs became institutionalized. Although the church continued to be based in the cathedrals and chapels, Catholicism became grounded in extrasacramental contexts: in the family, in brotherhoods, in communal cults, and along informal lines in the everyday world. The populace‘s religious interests came to be focused on, and satisfied through, ad hoc practices, private devotions, and participation in festive, Catholic-toned social activities. The priest and his sacramental authority became peripheral to the religious life of large numbers of the people.

The achievement of influence and social control by the Roman Catholic church in South America has thus emerged not from its functioning as a system of pastoral activity but rather from the support its leaders have given to secular powers and from their multiple involvements in education, charity, and administration. Moreover, during the first century of political independence in South America, the church became firmly identified with the conservative factions, and its principal survival strategy until well into the twentieth century was to depend upon these groups for status, financial aid, and influence. However, as many of the national churches gained, or were forced into, political autonomy over the last fifty years, religious elites have been forced to reconsider these alignments; in the more progressive churches, especially in Chile and Brazil, church elites have begun to support and implement social reforms as a new strategy for exerting influence.

The institutionalized status of Roman Catholicism in South American culture as contrasted with the church‘s inability to generate an overarching moral basis for social values and consensus illuminates two important and chronic patterns of South American political life: its instability and the important role of the military.

The political process in complex, changing societies requires the presence of an underlying sub-stratum of what fimile Durkheim referred to as moral norms; at the same time, these need to be relatively differentiated from the polity. The routine give-and-take of politics depends, for its stability, on a framework of meanings and orientations capable of providing legitimacy for political discipline and centers of power at the national level. The cultural base of these societies lacks this integrative, legitimizing property against which political conflicts can be worked out and energies can be linked to collective tasks bearing on the attainment of national objectives. The political process, comprising short-run, power-oriented contests, is not an effective mechanism when each political encounter between the claimants triggers a death struggle over ultimate ends and basic values.

From this perspective the chronic intervention of the military can be seen as providing a temporary, intermittent substitute for the broader moral consensus that does not exist. The military brings a combination of naked, authoritarian strength and “moral” protection to bear on various political situations. While the military‘s political involvements and interventions are the result of many factors (Lieuwen I960; Johnson 1964; Horowitz 1967)—the class origins of the officers, their monopoly over the use of force, and pressures from civilian politicians—the relationship can be viewed in terms of functional hypotheses. For example, one hypothesis is that the military in South America sometimes functions as a kind of religious system and that the church frequently functions as a political system. If the church had developed as an extrapolitical symbol of religious values and an agency of moral authority, there would be less periodic intervention of the military authority.

Although Spanish South America is Roman Catholic, the current status of the church in these countries is ambiguous. More than 90 per cent of the population are baptized in the church, yet less than 25 per cent receive the sacraments regularly (Pin 1963, pp. 11-18). There is a shortage of priests: in Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru the average is one priest for approximately 5,000 baptized church members (Pérez Ramírez & Wust 1961, p. 141). This figure does not take into ac-count the geographical distribution of the priests or their parishioners. In a slum of Santiago one priest may be responsible for 7,000 families within a two-mile radius, while in the rural mountainous area of the Altiplano, another priest may be charged with only 2,500 people, but they are scattered over more than 100 square miles. The shortage of priests, combined with the weak pastoral tradition of the church, has only served to strengthen the folk nature of religion—the ad hoc, extrasacramental nature of participation (Houtart & Pin 1965, pp. 177-199).

Moreover, the rapid growth of indigenous religious movements, especially Protestant Pentecostalism, represents a generic break in the traditionally Roman Catholic traditions of value orientations, political participation, and membership forms (Willems 1964). The Pentecostal sects combine authoritarian doctrines, expressive modes of wor-ship, lay leadership, and a radical conception of otherworldly salvation; their congregations are built around social fellowship and religious solidarity. Since their membership is drawn from the lower-status urban groups, a population among which Catholic commitment is very low, Pentecostalism represents the first serious religious competition to the Roman Catholic church in South America.

As to the future role of the church in South American institutional life, there are four major possibilities. It may continue to decrease in importance as the traditional oligarchies with which it has been associated lose their power positions; as secularism and social pluralism increase, the church may become a locus for only marginal loyalties, increasingly peripheral to major institutional patterns.

Three other views of the future of the church assign it a role of continuing importance. Two such views see the church as a negative factor in institutional change. On the cultural level, Catholic beliefs and their accompanying value orientations are seen as having encapsulated the total cultural system, anchoring it to an otherworldly perspective. This framework prevents adequate differentiation of the technical, the rational, and the scientific spheres from vertical sacred authority and supernatural sanctions (Vekemans 1964; Fals Borda 1965). Some type of disengagement from tradition is thus seen as a prerequisite for socio-economic development.

On the political level, the church may continue in its role as a powerful pressure group that is predisposed to intervene on the side of the forces of traditionalism and conservatism (Blanksten 1959). Either on their own, or in coalition with the rural aristocracy and the military, church elites would define their role as being the defenders of cultural values against communism and other leftist forces and the preservers of Catholic tradition against such threatening modernisms as the liberalization of divorce laws, family-planning education, and the restriction of church property holdings. This type of church intervention has occurred during the Peron era in Argentina and during military regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru.

In recent years some evidence has appeared to suggest that the church may play yet another role, a positive one, in institutional change processes. Progressive groups within the South American churches have begun to support social change by fusing Christian principles with the concept of social revolution. These progressives gain legitimation from European Catholic sources: Jacques Maritain, Emmanuel Mounier, the social encyclicals of Leo xm, Pius xi, and John xxm. The norms set by Vatican n and the power shifts reflected in these principles give increased support to the progressive factions and their desire for social and religious reforms. However, one of the basic deterrents to the possibility of a positive role for the church in social change lies in the conflicts and divisions to be found among the progressives themselves; they disagree over priorities, procedures, and relations with the secular left (Vallier 1967).

Properties of the normative order. Spanish South American society rests on, and operates through, a distinctive normative order. Although this order can be characterized in various ways, its principal elements flow from a dominant world view that posits a relatively immutable uni-verse of an extraempirical order (Graria 1962-1963). This view is paralleled by an equally important pattern: an accommodative and somewhat passive posture toward the concrete events and conditions that make up everyday physical and social environments. The universe operates within a set of coordinates that possess eternal and onto-logical status and thus are not susceptible to re-organization. The expected course of action is that of temporizing and accommodating within this fixed system on a short-run and often ad hoc basis. It is a mistake, however, to translate this complex into oversimplified descriptive categories such as “traditional” or “sacred.” While both characterizations are, with qualifications, justified, these terms are too broad; a sacred world view can contain a variety of religious orientations (Weber 1922).

Because of this base, the normative system sup-ports and encourages extraordinary patience, various forms of ritual behavior, and a distinctive tendency to pursue personal goals (or those of one‘s group) through patterned reciprocities and political arrangements. The last-mentioned quality gives behavior, over time, a quality of inconsistency and unpredictability. Less attention is given to the future than to the present and past. This focus is in part a product of the assumption or cultural premise that the higher-order laws that rule destinies are unknowable and, even if knowable, are unalterable. The energies of South Ameri-cans are thus husbanded for handling the present and short-run problems, not disciplined toward the achievement of long-range collective goals.

The action orientation produced by this normative base is a distinctive mixture of the religious and political modes. In this context, “religion” does not refer to a specific experiential ideal or confessional content but rather to a basic predisposition to project the search for meaning onto a set of powers who can be petitioned on behalf of particular problems or needs, if certain ritual obligations—devotion, loyalty, and homage—are met. But these powers are not seen as entities that can be involved in any broad cooperative undertaking. The religious orientation thus stimulates the patterning of behavior around specific points of obligation and activity; its product is ritual action.

The second mode of action, the political, derives from the necessity to reach short-term goals within a heavily structured and static situation. Social structure is seen as a condition of the environment, to be either worked through, manipulated, or challenged by threat or actual force. This view predisposes South Americans to utilize power plays or discreet and indirect forms of problem solving, the former being a means of joining the established powers and the latter a means of accommo-dating or evading them. There are two critical instrumental resources in action situations: full knowledge of the ways in which the system is structured and awareness of the networks of reciprocal obligations that can be activated to assist in the solution of a problem. Thus, innovation in Spanish South America takes place within these spheres of political action. Each problem stimulates responses, including temporary alliances, formal accommodative compliance, the activation of political networks, and if the foregoing resources fail, a recourse to myths and evasion (Alba 1961).

Three features of the colonial period stimulated and strengthened these normative postures: (1) the bountiful and easily accessible geological and agricultural wealth led to an ethic of “gathering” rather than one of rational production; (2) the colonies functioned as suppliers to the crown, and social life was therefore organized around a dependency on higher orders and specific instructions rather than around the development of autonomous models of problem solving; and (3) the distance between ruler and subject, supposedly mediated by functional authority structures, was complicated by a detailed system of codes and statutes that was often unsuited to the concrete situation and thus stimulated circumvention (Sarfatti 1966).

In short, the Spanish-American enterprise was not innovative, independent in orientation, or focused on problem solving, but rather it was dependent and oriented toward Spain via vertical structures. The Spanish-American inhabitants related to each other in terms of fixed status groups whose memberships were determined by a formal superstructure. Problem solving consisted mainly in the settlement of conflicting claims over juris-diction or the distribution of privileges. The common focus was on the advantages or disadvantages to be derived from those in authority.

The foundation for a societal community was never laid, and when historical circumstances resulted in the formal creation of nations, there were no solid normative bases for nation building. The functional exigencies of a society—integration, distribution of power, socialization in common values, and a rational division of labor—were undertaken in the newly delineated territories by structures that were suited only to a role as appendages of a wider social system.

Institutional patterns. A special configuration of institutions resulted from the attempt to build a national society out of institutions grounded in the colonial enterprise. The chief characteristic of these institutions is “segmental association,” the vertical and spatial disjunctive patterning of social units. There are strong boundaries and corresponding cleavages between any one segment and the rest of the system; strong dimensions of internal solidarity pervade the segments. People, resources, and loyalties adhere to the various demarcated units, and the width of the vertical or horizontal cleavage between units varies from place to place. In Peru, for instance, class distinctions vary according to geographic location, ranging from a simple tripartite hierarchical division in the Sierra to complex divisions into levels and sublevels in the coastal areas that are based primarily on birth, wealth, and ethnic criteria. In Argentina three broad axes determine the pattern of segmentation: industrialists versus rural aristocracy, workers versus middle class, and Creoles versus immigrants and their descendants. Integration in South America is thus more an internal property of the various segments than an aspect of relationships between units.

Segmentalism can be expressed in a number of familiar categories: localism (geographically based clusters), patrimonial enclaves such as the hacienda complex, and elitism based on birth, wealth, and a characteristic privatism or distance that restrains open social relationships. The means for moving from one segment to another, whether for assistance in problem solving or for status pur-poses, are the personal-relationship networks based on blood ties, friendship, or obligations resulting from past favors. These are the same networks that operate to facilitate political problem solving.

Segmentalism restricts the process of structural differentiation in Spanish-American societies, since each social unit tends to be a microcosm which attempts to be self-sufficient and autonomous. The shift from segmental solidarity to over-all social integration has not occurred. Thus, whenever these social segments begin to polarize, especially in the direction of open conflict, the military intervenes to impose an artificial and temporary integration. Argentina is especially susceptible to this type of polarization and intervention, as are Bolivia and Peru.

Within the context of this institutional segmentalism, the second major characteristic of the normative order, “hierarchy,” takes on added significance. Hierarchy, or a distinctive set of super-ordinate-subordinate relationships, is an institutional feature of all authority systems, but in South America it is a generalized form pervading social life. Two types of this generalized form are paternalism and authoritarianism; the former is characteristic of an economic or administrative complex that has become an enclave; the latter generally arises when a national problem requires control of all the segments and a dictatorship emerges.

The third institutional configuration is international symbiosis, the recurring tendency of social segments to forge links with extranational systems. It is utilized as one means of achieving competitive status vis-à-vis other segments and authoritarian potentialities and thus deflects loyalties away from the nation.

This type of symbiosis developed during the colonial period and prevailed after the colonial ties of dependency were formally severed. Thus, in the early independence period many of the provincial settlements and groups were unwilling to commit themselves to the republican elites, favoring instead their own direct ties with the government in Spain. During the nineteenth century, intellectual ties with Europe and economic ties with the wealthier industrial nations reinforced these sym-biotic tendencies. During the twentieth century, however, the patterns have changed somewhat. The older pattern of industrial relations has been partly replaced by foreign economic ties and various forms of financial dependency provided through contracts of international assistance, grants, or loans. The intellectual and artistic ties have merged into a worldwide system of academic relations, although the older landowning groups still retain their traditional cultural ties with centers of style and expression in western Europe.

Institutionalized adjustments . Within these broad features, several distinctive patterns merit special attention: the reliance on ideology as an element of action, the politicization of nongovern-mental units, the adoption of extralegal solutions to problem solving, and the institutionalization of informal systems of influence. These four characteristics tend to merge and overlap in many concrete situations.

Ideology and action. In South America, ideology is highly functional because of the weakness of common values. In order for a group to have a basis for action, it must develop an ideology linking its immediate interests to a wider set of meaning and values (Hirschman 1961). It is not possible simply to set goals and then act on them. So long as the process of change is not self-generating, it must be advanced by ideas that can persuade, that give meaning and direction. Ideology performs this function and also allows verbal conflict to take the place of more concrete forms of battle. It thus bridges the gap between immediate goals and a wider sense of direction and identity, legitimating action in situations where the ground rules are not clear. In short, ideology is an integral element of action in South America because it serves to create a common basis of action where an underlying normative order is weak and extreme segmentalism prevails.

Politicization of the social structure. In South American societies the political mode dominates all social processes, including the economic, Such societies are said to be highly politicized because power contests and the attempts to consolidate power involve nongovernmental and nonpolitical units. Organizations and groups that are in no way linked with the electoral machinery, the legislative assemblies, or party organizations are either deliberately co-opted for political capital or are drawn into the political arena in attempting to further their own interests.

For example, the trade unions in those countries that have developed an economic base for worker consciousness (Chile, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and Venezuela) are highly politicized (Alexander 1965, pp. 13-24; Poblete Troncoso & Burnett 1960). They arose under the influence of radical ideologies, such as anarchism, syndicalism, and socialism, and as a result have defined a new function for the type of government that they desire. They are not simply interested in a redistributive scheme (as are the major labor groups in North America) but demand, in addition, that the whole structure of society be changed and that the traditional monopolizers of power be dislodged.

As previously noted, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church is also highly involved in politics. It has slowly been trying to extricate itself from the political arena, although this process of autonomization has proceeded to an appreciable extent only in Uruguay, Chile, and Venezuela.

Extralegal solution of problems. South American individuals and groups tend to rely on ad hoc, extemporaneous methods of reaching their goals. This pattern is a special illustration of the patterns of accommodation and evasion. Various types of creative solutions are utilized in order to accomplish one‘s ends; whether one makes use of personal connections, pay-offs, or obligatory ties depends on the situation in question. But an overall disregard of administrative regularities has existed since colonial days.

Informal systems of influence. In South American countries concrete units, whether labor unions, political parties, or church units, have tended to carry out multiple functions, many of which are executed as a result of short-term pressures rather than on the basis of long-range goals or priorities. Much of the ferment in the South American countries derives from the attempt on the part of these organizations to extricate themselves from their traditional anchorages and systems of diffuse control. Labor unions, for example, want to be able to use politicians rather than being used by them. The institutionalization of informal systems of influence handicaps many groups by exhausting their resources on multiple projects rather than letting them exercise their capacities on formally decided long-range goals.

The problem of change. The central theme in contemporary South America is social change, with the problems of economic and social development as the focus. These issues have polarized the major power groups and engendered deep controversies as to the type, rate, and means of change.

In the economic sphere there are at least four major areas of controversy: (1) the problem of inflation, its causes, and the different means of control proposed by the “monetarists” and the “structuralists” (Massad 1964, p. 222); (2) the extent and effects of these countries‘ unfavorable trade balance in the international market and how it can be corrected (United Nations 1950; Viner 1952); (3) the role of the government in investment and general entrepreneurial activity, including the degree to which national planning is necessary and fruitful (Hirschman 1958); and (4) the strategy of economic development, whether through a “big push” and balanced planning or through imbalances and carefully initiated inducements (Rosenstein-Rodan 1961). Recently attention has moved to fiscal reforms, economic integration, and the agricultural sphere, particularly the relationship of land-reform measures to productivity (Carroll 1961), the problems created by disguised unemployment and the inefficient allocation of labor, and the appropriateness and feasibility of large-scale commercial farms (Santiago de Chile 1960).

On the political level, problems of productivity, welfare, and capital create questions concerning the distribution of power that, in turn, merge with ideological doctrines. Those in favor of rapid change may be divided into three groups. Two are evolutionary: one champions the liberal, capitalistic model with limited governmental intervention, and the other focuses on planned growth and strong state controls backed up by an indigenous ideology. President Frei in Chile and his Christian Democrats represent the most recent expression of the second position. The third strategy is that of a full revolution, capable of bringing about radical breaks in the economic bases of power and a valid participative base for all citizens. Both the Mexican and Cuban models are taken as reference points.

The chronic patterns of economic stagnation, demographic pressures, and political impotency have stimulated a series of vicious circles. Diagnoses and prescriptive cures have multiplied. Early positions favoring additional capital and technical assistance have been gradually replaced by political formulas and sociocultural programs, including increased attention to basic education, leadership training, and cooperative programs in credit, housing, and agriculture. These efforts to instigate change are paralleled by theoretical ventures that attempt to isolate the structural and ideological bases of South America‘s many problems (Medina Echavarria 1963).

Current hypotheses and research on social change are focused on the role of the middle classes in political development—both its positive (Johnson 1958) and negative (Nun 1965) aspects; the functions of nationalism for socioeconomic growth (Silvert 1963); ways of transforming traditional values and structures by means other than revolution (Hirschman 1958; 1963; Lipset 1967); the degree to which labor constitutes a revolutionary stratum (Landsberger 1967); and the conditions for the emergence of an entrepreneurial elite (Hagen 1962; Lipset 1967). Studies of social change involving sophisticated concepts and measures are largely absent. The extent of change is grossly exaggerated. Economic growth or rates of urbanization have no sociological meaning unless placed in the context of income distribution, changes in occupational opportunities, and investment in social facilities and services (Bonilla 1964). It is thus necessary to distinguish between legislative reforms, aggregate trends, and structural or relational changes. Although major legislative programs have been passed into law—for example, land reforms, tax provisions, and labor statutes—only minor changes have occurred in behavior and the control over resources. Changes in certain rates, such as that of rural-urban migration, are typically cited as indicators of change, yet they seldom involve positive structural changes. Though the size of the urban labor force continues to increase, the proportion involved in industrial pursuits remains stable, implying that most of the growth is in the tertiary, or service, occupations. Consequently, those who see rapid change in South America fail to show that there have been relational or basic structural changes between occupational structures and social mobility, between political parties and labor unions, between the church and the political system, or between the landowners and key financial institutions, such as the banks.

There are, however, some significant emerging trends. Changes in the relations between the Latin American countries deserve special recognition. Although Bolívar, el Libertador, envisioned a continental form of union during the era of independence, this ideal has lain fallow until recently. Through the mechanism of the Latin American Free Trade Association and its quasi-political and ideological corollaries, the theme of Latin American integration has brought elites of these countries into new lines of cooperation and consensus (Haas & Schmitter 1965). Formulated in part as an attempt to gain collective power vis-a-vis established centers of foreign control, this movement toward continental integration has helped draw together intellectual and middle-class groups from various countries (Dell 1966). For the first time in a century and a half, these nations are turning away from extracontinental ideas and elites to their own resources.

Another structural change has been the formation of technical-political complexes. Small elite groups in many South American countries have been created to deal with the problems of translating formal models and empirical data into national policies, regional programs, and simulation models dealing with production, use of public facilities, migrations, and labor-force distributions. These sociologists, economists, administrative experts, and information specialists are aiding in the rationalization of decision making and goal-resource combinations.

By virtue of their esoteric knowledge and trained capacity for manipulating data and concepts, these groups have tended to amass a considerable amount of technically based power. Moreover, they are integrated with other elites along international lines and thus possess generalized knowledge of the world situation on the basis of which they can develop programs, set priorities, and legitimate their plans.

The trend in South America toward increased governmental participation in economic development and the broad process of social change suggest that the emphasis on applied science at the national level will continue to increase and, in turn, so will the importance of the technical-political complex.

The emergence of the social sciences in South America also warrants special attention for its relevance to the problems of change and reconstruction. The role of science in South America shares some of the broader legitimacy of the whole intellectual tradition, and thus its influence on educational philosophy and curriculums is very large. Within the Roman Catholic educational system, the impact may have even greater significance, for the fusion of the priestly and scientific roles implies a double transformation. First, social science tends to eclipse some of the metaphysical and theological emphases as problems of society, law, and motivation are examined empirically. Second, the priest as economist or sociologist symbolizes a new role for the church in its relationship to social change. The fuller institutionalization of social science in the major Catholic universities in South America will continue to be a major source of leverage for modernizing the church and thus accelerating its positive role in social change (Vallier 1967).

The emergence of social science as a major component of the developmental effort in South America is of even more importance than its rise to eminence within the intellectual tradition. Many of the outstanding ideological spokesmen for change and even revolution are social scientists who are committed to changing the social system and yet maintain the highest professional respect from their colleagues at home and abroad. Such social scientists occupy key positions in the many agencies and organizations that carry out consultation, planning, research, and programming for South American development.

The traditional “intellectual,” unable to connect thought with action, is rapidly disappearing. No doubt persons so inclined will tend increasingly to turn to more specifically literary pursuits, since they have been shown to be unable to handle analyses of social structure and of the norms governing the new rationalities and necessary responsibilities.

The new social scientists must be careful not to approach their tasks from either an exclusively practical or an exclusively ideological point of view, or they will damage the long-range plans for development. As the new social scientists are legitimated as part of the new developmental ethos, they will need to undertake sustained, objective empirical research and the corresponding theoretical work necessary to inform such research. If they fuse ideology with social science, so that only problems relevant to the revolution are worth investigating, the social sciences could easily become mechanisms of politics rather than bases for examining and understanding the world. For the first time, the intellectual has become an agent of change, but he must be aware that the danger exists that he will lose a perspective of disinterested inquiry.

The course of scholarship. South American societies are neither new nations nor unambiguously underdeveloped, and they failed to gain an immediate place in postwar thinking about change, modernization, and evolution. Despite a lively and competent tradition of work on Spanish South America by historians and anthropologists, the area remained relatively neglected. Four successive events helped to turn the tide: the fall of Peron in 1955, the gains of the far left in Chile‘s elections of 1958, the Cuban revolution of 1959, and the initiation of the Alliance for Progress in 1961. In a few years the continent has become a major new area of scholarly work (Seminar on Latin American Studies . . . 1964). It is not surprising that political and economic topics dominate these new efforts. This emphasis carries its own limitations and ideological corollaries. Themes that would appear to be central to the study of complex societies—kinship, occupations, voluntary associations, child-training and educational institutions, as well as deviance, court procedures, and religion—remain peripheral. Theoretical problems of long-standing importance, including the question of limits on the range of structural variations, the Durkheimian problem of structural differentiation and integration, role strains, status sets, and informal modes of social control, are seldom mentioned (Vallier 1965). Although the international dimension is being considered and conceptualized to some degree, the major emphasis is on the country as the unit of analysis. Even when the focus is comparative in intent, the boundaries of the society are taken as cutoff points. Given the central role of extranational and international patterns in contemporary South America, the key analytical unit is either intersocietal or interlevel relationships. Both Kling (1956) and Baran (1957) make this intersystem perspective central, and Raul Prebisch has played a particularly important role in increasing the visibility of this dimension (United Nations 1950). South America‘s close ties with the United States, the strength of cultural orientations toward certain features of western Europe, the growing links between Roman Catholicism as a world church and the South American episcopate, and the move toward continental integration all suggest the importance of focusing re-search on these wider units.

Despite imbalances, major gains are being made in conceptualization and research procedures. Cross-national comparisons and regional configurations based on aggregated data provide a series of illuminating correlations, for example, between indices of communication and political development and between economic growth and democracy (Cutright 1963; Lipset 1959; Russett et al. 1964). There is a decided move away from static descriptions of governmental structures and labor organizations to the formulation of dynamic models centered on a limited number of variables (Germani & Silvert 1961; Di Telia 1965; Payne 1965). Other advances are made through the reduction of complex substantive fields into analytically based typologies (Wolf 1955). One of the most illuminating research directions involves the study of change sequences in terms of institutional relationships, feed-back paths, and the multiple ways in which growth and development may be generated through carefully planned inducements (Hirsch-man 1958; 1963).

Decisions about scholarly priorities and the choice of research sites and methods are complicated by wider political issues. The vast amounts of socially based tensions and human misery pose significant moral dilemmas for the social scientist. Many of the South American scholars are caught by force of circumstances in everyday politics: the universities are highly politicized and often the object of political sanctions. The increase in contacts between social scientists from South America and the United States has brought the politico-ideological corollaries of research into sharp focus. Disagreements emerge over the choice of problems, the criteria for valid data, and the logic of inference. Various attempts to develop a more harmonious basis of cooperation and exchange include collaborative projects, a wider distribution of research funds, and greater stress on proper training prior to field work.

The current significance of South America is manifold. It is one of the world‘s most important political battlegrounds, as was demonstrated by the events subsequent to the Cuban revolution. Numerically it is the largest stronghold of the Roman Catholic church, and consequently it is one of the major arenas for the initiation of religious reform and mobilization. South American societies have become test laboratories for new economic policies, community development programs, aid arrangements, public health innovation, and educational experimentation. In the social sciences, South America offers one of the most important new areas for longitudinal and comparative studies, for its republics share many important cultural and institutional features yet have a great diversity in specific details and structural development which allows the comparative study of parallels, divergences, and deviant cases.

In addition, South America presents many important theoretical and practical challenges in the area of social change. The previously described characteristics of segmentalism, international symbiosis, and hierarchical arrangement, combined with the lack of an environmental-mastery set, have impeded its development.

Future development will involve at least two major changes in this institutional context. The first is the formation of differentiated, more specialized adaptive and integrative units, superseding the more traditional, multifunctional units and thus providing more flexibility and concentration of resources. The second change involves the redirection and utilization of human resources; they must be dislodged from their traditional bases of solidarity and loyalty by extensive alteration of the very institutions that locked the individual into the traditional matrix: the family, the educational and religious system, the political mode.

The crux of the South American problem of change lies in the realm of culture. The key question, which has not yet been directly attacked, is how this great cultural system in its search for certainty, grandeur, and recognition through intellectual and aesthetic means is to be transformed into a mundane, secular, rational social system. Upon this issue depend all others. There is no doubt that the single most important line of change in South America is the rationalization of the political economy, yet this cannot occur without the existence of a wider basis of legitimation, a cultural system of meanings that can generate, fuse, and legitimate the necessary processes of rationalization.

Ivan A. Vallier and Vivian Vallier

[See alsoCaudillismo; Latin American PoliticalMOVEMENTS. Related material may be found inCaribbean Society; Middle American Society; PEASANTRY; Societal Analysis.]


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