Title: Throwing "Paper Stones": Argentina's Institutional Collapse
Name: Roberto Gargarella
Year: 2003, 2004
Type: Research Grant

My research project is about violence and legal institutions, and is focused on the case of Argentina. In December 2001 Argentina fell into what is considered the deepest crisis of its history. The crisis brought with it the succession of five different presidents in a week, and an extremely fragile political system. In addition, it provoked a serious increase in the number of social protests and the violent repression of those protests. The explanations of the crisis tend to describe it as the product of the character of "corrupt politicians" and "violent protesters." Consequently, the responses proposed to overcome this situation--responses that may be synthesized in the common cry "get rid of them all" (namely, the political class)--tend to reproduce that simplistic view. In contrast with this view, I am convinced that the crisis has become more permanent and profound as a result of the citizenry's lack of political means of expression, as well as their lack of tools for controlling their representatives. I also believe that it will be impossible to overcome the existing difficulties and to end with the present level of social violence if we do not improve our understanding of the role of institutions in the development of the crisis. My project aims at improving this understanding.

The point of departure of my analysis is that the crisis has been triggered and is maintained, at least in part, by an almost total absence of institutional means that enable the people to express their demands and control their representatives. Neither public discourse nor legal and political theory paid sufficient attention to this absence of institutional means. The focus has instead been on individuals rather than rules and on symptoms rather than causes. In my work, I want to fill this vacuum, by systematically focusing on the role played by inadequate legal rules in fostering an increasing social violence in the whole country.