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Growing consumer rights in neoliberal times: The top-down origins of consumer organizations in Argentina between 1978 and 1993

Pablo Federico Pryluka (Gino Germani Research Institute, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 17 August 2015




The purpose of this paper is threefold: first, to analyze the origins of Adelco in the context of the “Consumer Orientation Campaign” (Orientación Para El Consumidor, OPEC, in Spanish) promoted by the Ministry of Economy between 1978 and 1981; second, to describe the main characteristics of Adelco during its first years, especially its activities, structure and its international connections; finally, to contribute to the study of consumer organizations in Argentina and Latin America, where very little research has been done on the subject.


This article is organized into three sections. First, it outlines the deep transformations taking place in the Argentine economy during the military regime, highlighting particularly the variations in inflation rates and a series of inflation-related policies. It goes on to offer a brief overview of some new studies in consumer history in Argentina as well as an analysis of the Consumer Orientation campaign, promoted by Martínez de Hoz, the Minister of Economy from 1978 to 1981. Finally, it details the origins and key features of Adelco. For source material, this paper uses a qualitative approach, working with government documents, interviews and magazines. It also makes use of the Minutes of the Board of Directors Meeting of Adelco. At the same time, this paper contributes to current debates in the history of consumption.


This paper reaches two main conclusions. First, while Adelco may have presented itself as a non-government organization (NGO) linked to consumer interests and responsive to grass-roots pressures, it maintained a top-down structure with close ties to state policy. Second, Adelco was part of what Matthew Hilton has analyzed as a shift in the consumer movement of the last several decades: a change from collective action to individual choice.


The main value of the paper rests on three factors. First, it offers an insight into the origins of Adelco, the first consumer defense NGO in Argentina. Second, it studies sources that have never previously been analyzed, such as the Minutes of the Board of Directors meeting and personal interviews. Third, it shows the ties between the origins of Adelco and the consumer policy of the military government in Argentina.



This research was supported by a PhD scholarship given by the National Scientific and Technical Research Council. The author would like to thanks Dr Fernando Rocchi and Dra Ana Grondona for their advice, and Dra Claudia Collado for allowing the author the access to Adelco.


Pryluka, P.F. (2015), "Growing consumer rights in neoliberal times: The top-down origins of consumer organizations in Argentina between 1978 and 1993", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 373-388.



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