Since 1945, Argentine politics has been largely defined by Peronism, a populist movement established by General Juan Perón. While the ideology of Peronism has shifted and swerved over its seven-decade history, its central emphasis on loyalty has remained constant. This paper examines the notion of “organicity” (organicidad
), a Peronist conception of obedience, to elucidate how populist movements valorize discipline and loyalty in order to unify their ranks around sentiment and ritual in the absence of more stable programmatic positions. The original sense of “organicity”, as Perón developed it in his early writings, equated to strict military notions of discipline, obedience, and insubordination. In other words, Perón understood loyalty as an organic conception of discipline that consisted of both unyielding deference for the leader and unwavering commitment to the Peronist Movement. Yet, at particular moments in Argentine political history, Peronist militants either find organicity and loyalty to be intrinsically incompatible, or vocalize definitions of organicity that seem to question the top-down structure of the movement celebrated in Perón’s writings. As a result, among Peronists there is disagreement over what it means to behave organically and loyally. This article draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork among Peronist militants to argue that populism’s authoritarian preoccupation with fealty attempts to obscure the internal contradictions that result from its lack of clear ideological commitments. However, an emphasis on loyalty cannot produce eternally harmonious uniformity. As Peronists come to view those holding alternate interpretations of their doctrine as heretical and traitorous, their accusations against their comrades reveal the intrinsic fragility of populist unity.
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