Modernity is a narrative that explains why Europe and the United States have the right to rule the world. This narrative contains the idealistic statement that from the eighteenth century on, Europeans and US-Americans started to fight for freedom, equality, and democracy. Some critics of this narrative hold that Europeans and US-Americans betrayed these ideas.
They argue that the ideas are good but their European and North American defenders bad or, at any rate, hypocritical. I would prefer a more critical stance toward central aspects of modernity. We should not see it in a Manichean way. Modernity included the old and the new, bondage and freedom, at the same time.
These were not opposed concepts but interdependent ideas. He suggests that some Europeans admired this kind of modernity and believed it to be a model for Europe. He argues that it is not too difficult to find references to ideas or realities in other world areas. This, however, does not mean these ideas or realities were important to local developments. In nineteenth-century Europe, Eurocentrism was dominant on the left and right and in the upper and lower classes.
War and Independence
They did not have the slightest idea of political realities overseas. Besides, in mid-nineteenth-century Europe, republicanism was not dead. It was the descendant of European ancestors. Besides differences regarding the impact of Latin American political thought in Europe, there is a debate about the location of Latin American history.
The nation-state is no longer the natural container of history. At first glance, Ching seems to prefer a national approach for his history of El Salvador. However, he combines different spatial perspectives that go from the local to the national in explaining how far a national history depends on local realities. In another way, Sanders writes a Latin American history.
The stories he tells are similar but rarely connected. This is a kind of comparative history where we find differences and similarities. The four books reviewed in this essay highlight the importance of century-long traditions in Latin America. Brian Hamnett examines the eighteenth century to explain early Spanish constitutional thought.
Ossa Santa Cruz focuses on the break independence meant regarding military history.
British–Latin American Relations
He explains that during colonial times, the army was not an important political actor. This changed in the wars of independence and, therefore, the first chapter starts in The political histories discussed in this essay are inter alia about military actors, the public sphere, subaltern people, and local communities.
Ching, for example, shows how long it took to build a strong national state in El Salvador. The weakness of the state was a legacy of colonial regimes administered by local elites. Whereas early colonial history has studied the demographic collapse of the native people during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the historiography of the nineteenth century does not give much attention to the fact that the population had still not recovered from the dramatic impact of European diseases.
Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, all Latin American countries were overwhelmingly rural. Excepting mining and sugar, protocapitalist production was only in its beginnings, because internal markets were small. Mountains and climatic conditions unknown to Europe made it difficult to connect political centers with remote regions. Under these conditions, subaltern people and rural communities were in a better position to impose their ideas of society on a local level.
Latin America since the mid-20th century
While Ching gives much attention to political institutions and local conditions, the books of Sanders, Ossa Santa Cruz, and Eastman and Sobrevilla Perea are more interested in political ideas, imagination, and discourses. Possibly, these differences express the different ways historians think about Latin American political histories of the twentieth and the nineteenth centuries.
Ching gives much attention to the twentieth century; the other books focus on nineteenth century history. As we are living in the decades of bicentennial celebrations, there is no doubt that this research boom will last for some more years. Lima: Iberia, Heraclio Bonilla et al. Theodor W. Latin American Research Review , 52 4 , pp. Latin American Research Review. Latin American Research Review , 52 4 , — Latin American Research Review 52 4 : — Latin American Research Review 52, no. Latin American Research Review , vol. Start Submission Become a Reviewer. X close. Published on 23 Oct CC BY 4.
War and Independence Old historiography described the independence wars as a fight of Latin American nations against despotic European government. Latin Americans were still the main actors in the political and socioeconomic developments of their own nations, as well as in strategic alliances with and resistance against the British. In Southey's poem, Madoc leads a fictional local tribe to defeat the Aztecs and thus, claims British precedence in Latin America before the Spanish.
This wistful reimagination of the past in order to give Britain a fictionalized presence would become a recurring motif in British literature of informal empire in the long nineteenth century. At the dawn of the Latin American wars of independence, however, support for the liberation of the Latin American nations from one empire theoretically preempted the idea that another empire would solve its problems.
Jessie Reeder argues that Anna Letitia Barbauld's Eighteen Hundred and Eleven uniquely anticipated and represented this paradox. Frankenstein also registers the incommensurability of Latin American freedom and European appropriation by imagining contemporary Latin America as a space free of Latin Americans. To reconcile the cognitive dissonance of deploring conquest in one breath and suggesting colonization in another, the creature simply fantasizes an alternative reality in which South America is virtually depopulated and no empire has succeeded another.
The inconsistent Frankenstein, however, fearful that monster and mate will reproduce and repopulate the continent, reneges on their agreement, and literally tears the mate to pieces. Frankenstein thus sets another pattern for British literature of informal empire that envisions, then inevitably destroys, the fantasy of simultaneously liberating and possessing Latin America. The first stage of British informal empire in Latin America has largely been defined by the narratives of early financial ventures, although critics have questioned both the typicality of these narratives and their characterization as coherently imperialist.
The fantasy of British ownership of the future of Latin America was ambivalent from the beginning, however. As both Franco and Pratt acknowledge, the capitalists expressed doubt and disillusionment with their avowedly imperialist objectives. Franco analyzes Frances Bond Head's Rough Notes Taken during Some Rapid Journeys across the Pampas and the Andes , in which Head's capacity for esthetic appreciation of the landscape and interest in the gauchos and miners differentiates him from his fellow entrepreneurs. Robertson were all ultimately unsuccessful in their South American ventures. Though Franco does not emphasize the idea that financial frustration might have jaundiced their perspective, these failures ironize their imperialist expectations of acquisition and domination.
In addition to the capitalist vanguard, other British settlers from the same period provide a more multifaceted view of Latin America. Vowell's more interactive outlook is illustrated by the form as well as the content of his three volumes of narrative, Campaigns and Cruises in Venezuela, and New Granada and the Pacific Ocean The first volume is a memoir, whereas the second two volumes, collectively titled Tales from Venezuela , are two novels that collect and fictionalize Vowell's additional notes and experiences.
Brown argues that Vowell's unconventional and informal approach to travel narrative, flouting generic norms in favor of hybridity and heteroglossia, positions him decidedly outside of the archetypal imperialist viewpoint. British writers often attempted to represent the anomalous nature of informal empire by imagining Latin America within paradoxical or regressive temporalities. What noble towns would now have occupied its shores!
Yet even in the spirit of capitalist acquisitiveness, Darwin fixates on a counterfactual past of British precedence. While the British projected themselves backward into Latin American history, they also represented Latin America as another chronological paradox: The present embodiment of their own evolutionary past. Wilkie Collins's novel The Woman in White novelistically illustrates the lens of atavism through which Latin American indigenous persons were frequently viewed in British literature.
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Significantly, in a novel consisting of multiple narrators and perspectives, this episode is not narrated directly by Walter, but within the clairvoyant lucid dream of Marian Halcombe in England. Another form of domination that Aguirre identifies is the emerging science of ethnology. The prevalence of racial and ethnic mixture in Latin America made hybridity the main target of racist ethnological theories, which prognosticated the imminent degeneration and destruction of the indigenous and mestizo populations. Knox claimed that his prophesy of the eventual extinction of the mixed populace of Latin America was already being fulfilled, thus reviving the Romantic fantasy of a virtually empty continent for the British to inherit.
In the late s, Britain began again to extend loans to Latin American enterprises, with investments and trade continuing to expand and diversify through the end of the nineteenth century. Anthony Trollope , in his travel memoir The West Indies and the Spanish Main , uses ethnological and evolutionary logic to create a compensatory narrative in which British withdrawal from the Western Hemisphere is cast as an achievement instead of a loss.
The world is wide enough for us and for our offspring, and we may be well content that we have it nearly all between us. Let them fulfil their destiny in the West, while we do so in the East It is a proud reflection that we alone, of all people, have such children; a proud reflection, and a joyous one; though the weaning of the baby will always be in some respects painful to the mother pp.
The implicit warning is that the alternative to honorable retreat is failure, a specter that continues to haunt the literature of informal empire even at the height of its prosperity in the late nineteenth century, from Walter Hartright's disastrous expedition to the illusory financial scheme of the Central Pacific Mexican Railway in Trollope's The Way We Live Now Liberals, on the other hand, advocated a more rapid pace of social change, the full protection of individual freedoms, which especially included freedom of worship and of the press, the dismantling of the privileges traditionally enjoyed by the Catholic Church, and most of the time, but not always, federalism.
Though the difference between liberals and conservatives was often not clear cut, the only issue that consistently placed them at opposite sides was the religious one Bushnell — This opposition was more or less salient depending on the power that the local Catholic Church enjoyed in each national context. In New Granada, where the church had deeper roots, the liberal identity centered on a combination of marked anti-clericalism with a defense of federalism against a conservative regime that was pro-clerical, authoritarian, and centralist. While the liberal forces of secularization had won out in most of the region by the end of the century, the confrontation between liberals and conservatives over the religious problem played out in Colombia until the end of the twentieth Bushnell The religious problem in Hispanic America was, in some regions, primarily about religious toleration, where the liberal position regarding religion centered on the demand to allow for religious worship.
This was the case in Argentina where the local Catholic Church was relatively weak.
In some other regions, such as Mexico or New Granada, where the church was much stronger, the religious problem was more complex insofar as the church was powerful enough to destabilize the new republican governments and to challenge their legitimacy. Where it had the power to do so, the church sought to mobilize the moral religious sensibilities of the majority of the population against the attempted liberal reforms.
The church opposed civil equality in order to protect its own legal privileges and immunities, rejected the freedoms of thought and of the press as threats to religious morality and clerical authority, fought against economic reforms that endangered its position as the largest landowner and wealthiest corporation, favored a form of government that mirrored its own hierarchical structure i. The challenge posed by the church to the new liberal republics combined claims to political and economic power with the defense of morality and religion. In sum, the church opposed all aspects of liberal ideology in the name of the religion of the vast majority.
Though liberals and conservatives could agree on the need to protect freedom of religious worship, as sometimes they did, they held opposing views regarding the sorts of institutional supports, if any, that the State should provide the dominant Catholic Church. While liberals usually pushed for disestablishment, conservatives favored the opposite.
The latter meant that the state should not explicitly favor or disfavor religion as such.
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This liberal position, though clearly anti-clerical, did not necessarily entail hostility to religion. Though some liberals undoubtedly held anti-Catholic sentiments, the attack against the church was political insofar as it aimed to place the latter under the authority of the state.
Though some conservatives favored the church from authentic conviction such as Miguel Antonio Caro in New Granada, the most prominent conservative intellectual there , many of them did so from instrumental considerations. Conservatives did not wish to antagonize what could be a useful ally in the maintenance of order. In the long run, those regimes that contemporized with the church indeed proved to be more stable than the liberal ones that antagonized it. The place where the confrontation between liberals and conservatives over the religious problem was most violent was Mexico, where the colonial church had been the most powerful.
The political challenge that the church posed to the liberal regimes pushed some Mexican liberals to move beyond their constitutionalism and to advocate the need for social and economic reform. He was a historian, politician, legislator, and a priest. His liberalism was strongly influenced by his admiration of the Cadiz constitution, the writings of Montesquieu and Constant, and by the course of political events that led him to assume anticlerical views.
Mora began his career as a liberal intellectual as a partisan of constitutionalism. He argued that it is impossible to limit the freedom to think and to have opinions since men cannot divest themselves from their opinions through external force. Thus, he claimed, it is neither just nor convenient to prevent them from expressing their thoughts. The crucial point for public order, in his view, is that men observe the law regardless of the opinions that they may hold.
He maintained that no principle of justice can ground the prohibition of doctrines considered false since men are fallible and the best or only means for arriving at knowledge of the truth is to subject doctrines to examination in a free discussion. The amendment of wrong opinions cannot be attained through prohibition but through the free circulation of ideas Mora —5.
Following Montesquieu, Mora placed great emphasis on the security of the person and affirmed the conception of civil freedom as the faculty of doing everything that the law does not expressly prohibit Mora —6. As an admirer of the Cadiz constitution, Mora espoused the idea of popular sovereignty but, following Constant, claimed that the latter was not unlimited. In his engagement with Rousseau, Constant had affirmed the notion of the general will as the source of legitimate political authority, but had denied the unlimited authority of society over the individual.
According to Constant, individual rights are the limits that the political authority must not trespass.
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Mora warned that any unlimited authority was essentially tyrannical and, following Montesquieu, characterized despotism as the lawless, absolute, and unlimited use of political power regardless of the hands in which it falls and the particular form of government that it takes Mora According to Mora, individual rights and liberties limit the exercise of political power lest it become despotic.
As was conventional wisdom in nineteenth century French liberalism, Mora argued for a franchise limited to proprietors who, in his view, were the only members of society capable of exerting an independent judgment, of displaying true civic virtues, and of caring for the public good Mora —4. However, Mora departed from the conventional wisdom of nineteenth century French liberalism in various ways.
First, he rejected monarchism, continued to regard individual rights as natural, and subscribed to the doctrine of the social contract. Constant had conceived of the constitutional monarch as neutral power that could moderate conflicts among the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches. The third way in which Mora departed from French liberalism was his anticlericalism, which was motivated by local political events. Despite his admiration for the Cadiz constitution, Mora criticized the fact that it did not abolish the special privileges enjoyed by the military and the church.
He regarded the church as having a esprit des corps that was opposed to both the national spirit and the representative system insofar as the church sought to maintain special privileges and immunities that were contrary to civil equality. He also considered the church as an obstacle to colonization of scarcely populated territories in virtue of its opposition to freedom of worship.
In Mexico, the church was indeed the wealthiest financial agent and the largest single proprietor in the nineteenth century until most of its property was nationalized in He warned that the religious principle degenerates when it is not kept separate from the political one. By contrast with the Argentinian Alberdi, who did not have to deal with a comparatively powerful Catholic Church, Mora advocated a strong reformist state capable of curbing the opposition to liberal values by established social powers.
In the closing decades of the nineteenth century, there took place a fusion of liberalism with positivism in some parts of Latin America. As developed by Auguste Comte in his Course of Positive Philosophy , positivism claimed that it was possible to uncover the laws of social phenomena and to organize society according to them. Comtean philosophy was most influential in the field of higher education, where social reformers introduced new curricula that privileged the study of the empirical sciences. Such innovations were intended for the education of the elites.
At the same time, Hispanic American educators inspired by Comte shunned his religion of humanity. The latter had the greatest impact in Brazil, where positivism displaced liberalism. He was a public intellectual, a central literary figure, and a politician. The influence of positivism is manifest in this work. By contrast with Comte, however, Lastarria was a thorough individualist who extolled the perfection of the individual and the value of individual liberty.
He refused to subordinate individual liberty to social order and maintained throughout his political writings that society should protect the full exercise of individual liberty. The central idea that Lastarria took from Comte is the thesis that modern societies need to be guided by experience and scientific observation.
According to this, politics must be an experimental science based on experience and observation, which are the only solid basis for social organization. Social progress, on his view, is a product of this development. This is a perfectionist conception of the human person according to which perfection is not only an individual end but also the most important social end. Lastarria conceived of his own epoch as one of painful transition towards the triumph of liberty.
Following Comte, he subscribed to the view that society progresses through three stages: theological, metaphysical, and positive. At the theological stage, society is subject to the authority of spiritual dogmas and is governed by force. He associates the metaphysical stage with the French spirit and criticizes it for its anarchy and confusion.
In particular, Lastarria criticizes the revolutionary conception of liberty as popular sovereignty which he regards as an absolute power incompatible with the rights of man, properly understood. The attack against the old theological order and the anarchy in the ideas characterize the epoch of transition towards a third, positive, stage. By the latter he not only means individual self-government but also government of the people by the people, which he saw realized in the North American republic that he greatly admired.
He was particularly concerned with freedom of religious worship. He held religion to be a fundamental idea in society but also an intimate and private one. Following the example of North America, he advocated the separation of church and State both in order to maintain the independence of the church in the carrying out of its spiritual mission and the neutrality of the State with respect to religious dogma. As many other Hispanic American liberals, Lastarria established a connection between freedom of thought and freedom of teaching: on his view, just as the State should abstain from favoring any religious doctrine in particular, the State should also refrain from imposing any political doctrine through official schooling.
Though this view pushes towards the disappearance of official schooling, he granted that the State had a duty to finance basic schooling but should leave all other instruction in private hands. The latter came to see society as an organism, of which the individual is a part, subject to fixed laws that determine its development. In their defense of a scientific approach to social problems that was based on observation and experience, they claimed that law had to be adjusted to social reality, not the other way around.
In the extreme, positivist liberals sided with the defense of authoritarian governments in the name of order and progress. After having been the triumphant ideology of nation building in most of Latin America in the late nineteenth century, liberalism entered a phase of decline in the early twentieth. At the turn of the century, this critique was sometimes combined with a growing skepticism regarding the aptness of liberal ideas and values for Hispanic American societies.
In Mexico, this skepticism emerged from within the liberal establishment insofar as the late nineteenth century liberal regime had been dictatorial and failed to protect constitutional rights and liberties Rabasa On this view, liberalism had subverted itself because it lacked the adequate social conditions to flourish. Laureano Vallenilla, a Venezuelan positivist sociologist, famously argued that authoritarian forms of governance are more suitable for Hispanic American societies Vallenilla A notable exception to this dominant view is the reconstruction, by an official ideologue, of Mexican liberalism as the official and triumphant ideology of the political regimes emanated from the revolution Reyes Heroles An important reason for this is that alternative ideologies became prominent.
Early in the century, positivism was condemned as utilitarian and materialist from the perspective of a new idealist mentality that developed among intellectual elites. By mid-century, socialist, Marxist, indigenous, agrarian, and populist political movements and ideologies had become dominant and displaced liberalism. The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have seen a modest revival of a liberal political discourse that is partly due to the decline of socialist and Marxist political movements and ideologies.
Two salient instances of this revival in political discourse are the recognition of the pluralism of forms of life and the demands for protection of the rights of minorities. In the sphere of academia, many scholars have enthusiastically welcomed the influence of Anglo-American contemporary liberalism. The works by John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Joseph Raz, and many others have received much attention and have been amply discussed in academic publications. It is interesting to notice, however, that there is a sharp separation between the reconstruction of nineteenth century Latin American liberalism, which continues to be the province of historians, on the one hand, and systematic reflection on liberal ideas and values by professional philosophers and political theorists, on the other.
Latin American Philosophy liberalism. An Overview 2. The Influence of Spanish Liberalism 3. Early Hispanic American Liberalism 4. Liberals, Conservatives, and the Religious Problem 6. Liberal Anti-Clericalism 7. The Influence of Positivism 8. An Overview Liberal ideas first became widespread in Latin American due to the influence of the liberal Cadiz constitution which was in force in the Spanish empire for two years until the reestablishment of absolute rule.
The Influence of Spanish Liberalism In response to the French invasion in , Spanish liberalism developed as an ideology of liberation against a foreign invader.
enter Early Hispanic American Liberalism The liberal discourse inherited from the French Revolution via the Cadiz constitution provided the language in which political actors demanded emancipation from colonial rule in the early nineteenth century. Liberals, Conservatives, and the Religious Problem What gave Latin American liberals and liberalism a clear identity around the mid-nineteenth century was their opposition to an adversary. Liberal Anti-Clericalism The place where the confrontation between liberals and conservatives over the religious problem was most violent was Mexico, where the colonial church had been the most powerful.
The Influence of Positivism In the closing decades of the nineteenth century, there took place a fusion of liberalism with positivism in some parts of Latin America. The Decline of Liberalism After having been the triumphant ideology of nation building in most of Latin America in the late nineteenth century, liberalism entered a phase of decline in the early twentieth. I, pp. III, pp. Bushnell eds. Bouret E Hijo. Jaksic and E. Botana, N. Los primeros liberalismos en el mundo iberoamericano , J.