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“The Allure of Labor is an outstanding book, and its contribution to debates about race, identity, and state formation extend its relevance far beyond Peru.”—Charles F. Walker, author of Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and Its Long Aftermath
“In this important book, Paulo Drinot explains perfectly the paradox of Peru’s early-twentieth-century labor legislation. On the one hand, it was comparatively progressive given the country’s level of industrialization. On the other hand, it was entirely inadequate in dealing with the labor conditions experienced by most of the country’s workers. . . . I have long looked for a book that clearly highlights the hopes and fears that ‘modernity’ inspired among Peru’s elites, and the way that their ambivalence was racialized. The Allure of Labor does the trick.”—David S. Parker, author of The Idea of the Middle Class: White-Collar Workers and Peruvian Society, 1900–1950
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Although the vast majority of laboring peoples in Peru were indigenous, in the minds of social reformers indigeneity was not commensurable with labor: Indians could not be workers and were therefore excluded from the labor policies enacted in the 1920s and 1930s and, more generally, from elite conceptions of industrial progress. Drinot shows how the incommensurability of indigeneity with labor was expressed in the 1920 constitution, in specific labor policies, and in the activities of state agencies created to oversee collective bargaining and provide workers with affordable housing, inexpensive food, and social insurance. He argues that the racialized assumptions of the modernizing Peruvian state are reflected in the enduring inequalities of present-day Peru.
Paulo Drinot is Senior Lecturer in Latin American History at the Institute of the Americas, University College London. He is the editor of Che’s Travels: The Making of a Revolutionary in 1950s Latin America, also published by Duke University Press.