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Guillermo O’Donnell’s concepts and insights are used in this chapter to explore the
characteristics, causes, and consequences of distributive conflict (over the allocation of material resources) in twentieth-century Argentina and Brazil. Drawing especially on O’Donnell’s article “State and Alliances in Argentina” (1978), the study puts social class structure and organization at the center of the analysis, although political institutions (particularly the strength of ties between social classes and political parties) and political culture will not be neglected. O’Donnell’s criteria are used to evaluate the quality of democracy in Argentina and Brazil during
comparable phases in each country’s political evolution. Argentina, it will be argued, had stronger working and landowning classes than Brazil, but lacked a large settled peasantry, which Brazil had. These features of the class structure contributed in Argentina, as compared to Brazil, to lower state autonomy, more radical populism, more intense economic stop-and-go cycles,
more frequent military coups, a more repressive bureaucratic-authoritarian regime, and a quicker and more complete transition from authoritarian rule.
In Brazil, a large settled peasantry reduced distributive conflict. Unlike in Argentina,


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