Introduction
“Our middle class is a joke. That’s why we laugh at it. . . . If we are not indul-
gent with ourselves, we cannot have pity for the Argentine middle class, for
our class,” wrote David Viñas in 1972, prefacing a play critical of the Argentine
middle- class family.1 Viñas’s sentence was not a phrase written in passing.
It condensed a pejorative judgment about the middle class, quite prevalent
in the early 1970s among intellectuals, artists, progressive journalists, and
politically committed youth that already had a long history and would also
have a considerable future. During the first half of the 1970s, a broad sector
of the Argentine intelligentsia, especially in Buenos Aires, devoted articles in
newspapers and magazines, plays and films, to questioning the middle class.
The same year that Viñas wrote this phrase, the journalist Tomás Eloy
Martínez published a series of articles entitled The Ideology of the Middle
Class in the daily La Opinión. According to Martínez, after having arrived in the
country from Europe in the late nineteenth century with greater desires to re-
turn than to stay, the Argentine middle class had no problems submitting to a
variety of governments, indifferent to the electoral fraud that they practiced.
Decades later, obsessed by consumption and without having any other goals
than buying a car and a house that the neighbors would envy, the middle class
acquired the characteristics that would define it: resistance to change, fear of
losing comfort and security, distrust of any communitarian ideology, dispo-
sition to accept the social leaders that are imposed upon it, adherence to the
values propagated by mass- circulation newspapers and traditional currents
of thought, reluctance to discuss history, sexual repression, and the cult of
appearance.2 In their desperation to be accepted, according to Martínez, the
middle class adhered to the interests of the ruling classes and imitated their
customs, style of dress, and food.3 In summary, in its docile adaptation to
society, the Argentine middle class was a creature without ideology.4
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