In the Argentine society of the 1930s, the formation of the urban middle sector and working-classes coincided with the progressive perception of the world of labor as a sphere alienated and foreign to culture. The incorporation of technology transformed labor processes creating a new occupational structure, and changing the social relationships at workplace. The main purpose of this dissertation is to analyze how the antagonistic character of the relationship between work and culture played an ideological and political role in the formation of class and gender identities, and how this was represented in the narrative written between 1930 and 2003.
The negative assessment of working time is refracted throughout many of the realist texts written during this period. This study explores and looks to explain the relationship between literature, culture, and labor throughout three specific moments of interconnection between the literary, the cultural, and the social fields. On the basis of sociopolitical facts of Argentine history, this dissertation’s chapters deal with the first period of industrialization and the Depression (1930–1945); the rise of Peronismo (1945–1976); and the effects of the last military dictatorship (1976–1983) and its aftermath, with the change in the productivity paradigm (1980 to the present). For these three periods the corpus analyzed is constituted by works such as the novels Los siete locos (1929) and Los lanzallamas (1931) by Roberto Arlt, El precio (1957) by Andrés Rivera, En otro orden de cosas (1998) by Rodolfo Fogwill, and Boca de lobo (2000) by Sergio Chejfec, the short stories “Cabecita Negra” (1961) by Germán Rozenmacher, “El fiord” (1969) and “El niño proletario” (1973) by Osvaldo Lamborghini, the film Mundo Grúa (1999) by Pablo Trapero, and the documentary La huelga de los locos (2002) by Mariana Arruti.
The examination of this series of “realist texts” will explain the links between the spheres of work and culture by taking into account their connection with the hegemonic culture institutions as they are represented in the literary discourse: the formal education and reading habits; the organization of labor processes in specialized and semi-skilled and unskilled work, and the definition of the workday, and the cultural discourses.
This study demonstrates that the return of the realist aesthetic, or the so called “new realisms” of the mid nineties, are responses that educated middle-class sectors elaborate to rethink and experience a new reality marked by unemployment, precarious labor insertion, and also for the reconfiguration of the labor skills due to the computing technology. In this context the parameter for representing work, and mainly, for representing the “other worker” has changed, opening the path for a critical review of hegemonic cultural assumption and questions the antagonistic character of the relation between work and culture. In this sense, this work demonstrates that the relationship between literature, culture, and labor responds to a political and ideological nature. In the current times, the opposition between work and culture which supported class and gender identities throughout the twentieth century can no longer function.