Argentine historian Ezequiel Adamovsky has produced the first comprehensive history of the Argentine middle class. As the book’s title indicates, he focuses mainly on the subjective aspects of class identity. He is interested in the evolution of the myth of Argentina as a country defined by its middle class and set apart from its Latin American neighbors. In a carefully constructed analysis, Adamovsky successfully traces the arc of this idea from its beginnings in the 1910s through its apogee in the early 1960s to its crisis in the financial debacle of 2001.

Along the way, Adamovsky challenges several of the deepest myths of Argentine culture and politics. One is the idea that a distinctive middle class had formed by the early twentieth century and found its political expression in the new Radical Party (Unión Cívica Radical). Drawing meticulously on trade and professional publications...

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