In The Allure of Labor, Paulo Drinot analyzes Peruvian state efforts in the 1920s and 1930s and argues that elites considered the tiny urban industrial labor force a privileged agent of progress capable of transforming Peru from an uncivilized country into a modern industrial nation-state. More than economic development, industrialization is better understood as “an embodied project of racial improvement” establishing citizenship as nonindigenous (p. 3). Labor's “allure” is thus its perceived ability to provide a “solution” to Peru's much more vexing “Indian problem” by transforming Indians into workers, converting them from obstacles into agents of modern progress and from national liabilities into assets (pp. 4–5).

Focusing on the Ministry of Development's Labor Section, the “barrios obreros” housing projects, state-funded eateries called “restaurantes populares,” and a 1936 law providing social security and hospitalization, Drinot draws from the Foucauldian governmentality literature in...

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