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Revolutionizing Repertoires

The Rise of Populist Mobilization in Peru

Politicians and political parties are for the most part limited by habit—they recycle tried-and-true strategies, draw on models from the past, and mimic others in the present. But in rare moments politicians break with routine and try something new.

Drawing on pragmatist theories of social action, Revolutionizing Repertoires sets out to examine what happens when the repertoire of practices available to political actors is dramatically reconfigured. Taking as his case study the development of a distinctively Latin American style of populist mobilization, Robert S. Jansen analyzes the Peruvian presidential election of 1931. He finds that, ultimately, populist mobilization emerged in the country at this time because newly empowered outsiders recognized the limitations of routine political practice and understood how to modify, transpose, invent, and recombine practices in a whole new way. Suggesting striking parallels to the recent populist turn in global politics, Revolutionizing Repertoires offers new insights not only to historians of Peru but also to scholars of historical sociology and comparative politics, and to anyone interested in the social and political origins of populism.

288 pages | 18 halftones, 1 map, 2 line drawings, 4 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2017

History: Latin American History

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Sociology: Individual, State and Society, Social Change, Social Movements, Political Sociology


“How does a new political practice such as populist mobilization take hold and become established is the subject of this important study of Peru’s transformative populist election of 1931. Drawing on pragmatist theories and based on a sophisticated, fine-grained reading of the sources, Jansen’s innovative work on Peru has implications for the rise of populist politics that has so proliferated throughout the hemisphere down to the present. I highly recommend it.”

Peter F. Klarén, George Washington University

“The most important contribution of Revolutionizing Repertoires is that it offers political historians of modern Latin America (and elsewhere) a novel conceptual approach and a powerful rationale to study early twentieth- century Latin American electoral politics—a grossly neglected area of study. In particular, the book offers a useful corrective to the current vogue of distilling populism either to the charismatic authority and practice of a single caudillo or to a reductivist structuralism that emphasizes class-based analysis of electoral politics. Jansen’s book also reminds us that comparative sociology is alive and well—and has much to offer American sociology.”

American Journal of Sociology

“Masterfully researched and brimming with insight, Revolutionizing Repertoires goes well beyond the Peruvian case to develop a brand new approach for explaining political change. Jansen demonstrates that habit and creativity are as important in politics as they are in everyday life, and that—under the right conditions—novel political practices can arise from their interplay. This is a major contribution that will help remake political sociology.”

Neil Gross, Colby College

Revolutionizing Repertoires presents an elegant, theoretically-motivated interrogation of a key moment in political history: the appearance of populist mobilization in Latin America. Whereas this form of political organization and rhetoric—combining horizontal solidarity among the people with oppositional orientation toward the elite—has been associated with post-war Brazil and Argentina, Jansen argues that its first appearance can be found in the 1931 election in Peru. This is a lovely book.”

Elisabeth S. Clemens, University of Chicago

“A detailed historical sociological account of the factors which led and enabled the two leading candidates of the 1931 election to effectively resort to populist mobilization. The book delivers a well-integrated combination of theoretical arguments and comparative empirical research.”

Canadian Journal of Sociology

“With populist politics recently becoming in vogue, Jansen’s Revolutionizing Repertoires is a welcome addition to the literature. . .Jansen does provide a unique perspective on the subject of political repertoires, while contributing to a much-needed conversation on populism in the modern era by exploring the history of an interesting and understudied political event. Scholars of social movements and politics should familiarize themselves with this book. . .especially if they are interested in studying the intersection between tactical innovation and populist politics.”


"Profoundly historical... it also employs narratives to explore the personalities and the chain of events to analyze what was, Jansen contends, a pathbreaking election in Latin America."

Latin American Research Review

Table of Contents

Abbreviations and Terms
1 Who Did What? Establishing Outcomes
2 The Social Context of Action: Economy, Infrastructure, and Social Organization
3 The Political Context of Action: Collective Actor Formation in a Dynamic Political Field
4 The Sources of Political Innovation: Habit, Experience, and Deliberation
5 Practicing Populist Mobilization: Experimentation, Imitation, and Excitation
6 The Routinization of Political Innovation: Resonance, Recognition, and Repetition
Appendix A: Chronology
Appendix B: Population, Suffrage, and Exclusion

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