This article examines the first two estimates of the Argentine cost of living index, focusing on their producers, Alejandro Bunge and José Figuerola. The Bunge index, released in 1918, did not hold as a stable social and political artifact because it lacked legitimacy in the eyes of many sectors of society. This was a consequence of Bunge’s personal connections, and of the close relationship between the index and Bunge and between the index and his macroeconomic vision, which differed from that of the economic and political elite. The trajectory of the second estimate, released in 1935 by the National Labor Department, highlights the importance of the working class as a social actor in fostering the adoption of the cost of living index. The legitimacy of the National Labor Department’s index was enhanced by the connections between Figuerola and the International Labour Organization. The contrast between the two histories suggests that for a cost of living index to hold as a stable social and political artifact during the first half of the twentieth century, a connection between the index and industrial relations had to exist. In particular, the index should contribute toward the formation of the working class as a visible object for policy intervention.
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Research Article| February 01 2021
Cecilia T. Lanata Briones; Constructing Cost of Living Indexes: Ideas and Individuals, Argentina, 1918–35. History of Political Economy 1 February 2021; 53 (1): 57–87. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-8816613
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