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Series, Colección América Latina. Note, A compilation of articles originally published in English in various journals and a book, with an introduction by the author. Revolución, Democracia y Populismo en América Latina de Alan Knight. populismo revolucionario, el estatismo popular, la revolución socialista y la reacción. Alan Knight is Professor of the History of Latin America and Fellow of St Antony’s College Revolución, Democracia y Populismo en América Latina (Santiago.

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Among its features, the following ones can be identified: The available investigations are often based on national experiences or comparative approaches among two or three cases like Peronism and Varguism, or Cardenism. The core of the argumentation will be focused on the Western distinction between state politics and civil society.

It remains today in everyday political languages as well as in the conceptual toolkit of the social sciences and humanities. In spite of the alleged notion, the concept and its empirical content are far from clear.

I will develop the hypothesis that a global historiographical perspective can help to grasp the basic dilemmas of Latin American populism. Instead of resolving the challenge of giving a historical definition of my subject I would like to open the discussion for future debates. First, it will develop a theoretical understanding of what would be a global-historical perspective from a Latin American point of view.

It will be crucial to inscribe there our proposal of a global historiographical representation of Latin American populism. Secondly, I will show the relevance of a progressivist notion of History as a conceptual framework of sociological and economic theories of Latin American populism. I do not have enough space here to assess the vast historiographical and theoretical debates concerning these different approaches.

It relegates to the past the efforts to build world history upon the expansion of a culture, a power and an economic interest. The Rise of the West. Unfortunately we stand only at the beginning of a situated reflection on the characteristics of a possible Latin American global history. I claim that it is required to think about the interpretive consequences of a global history of Latin American populism.

In this sense, even if the theoretical divergence was not clearly stated when all these works were written, the Hobsbawm-Bayly alternative remains the kernel of the crossroads of the field: Certainly, the disagreement is not related to economicism but to the opposition between a logic of capital permeating the differences Hobsbawm and the pluralism of explanations undermining the appearance of a single unification Bayly.

Of course I cannot go further in such a still open-ended debate. Notwithstanding the schematic aspect of the proposal, I will sketch a general chronology of Latin American globalizing streams, in which we can place the emergence of populism. In my view the periods of global interactions and contacts —conceptualized here as globalizing streams— were five.

At that time one branch of the huge migrations departed from Africa around eighty five thousand years before touched the northern lands of North America and started a settlement process all along the continent. During the next fourteen thousand years and more, different social and cultural forms emerged from migration and adaptation to American environments from Alaska to Patagonia.

They developed techniques of agriculture and cattle raising, built cities and implemented commerce and war. In some cases, as the Aztecs and the Incas, they created kingdoms. It was also the period of importation of enslaved people from Africa. The hybrid and complex nature of the subcontinent was produced along the centuries through an extensive ethnic mixture and the application of racial classification.

Commercial capitalism articulated with colonialism advanced differently in North America and in Spanish and Portuguese possessions. America was structured into the two subcontinents that remain with few —but not unimportant— vicissitudes until today.


The mentioned cycle belonged to the Atlantic wave of revolutions from to The anticolonial revolutions were largely republican the exception being the Brazilian empire. New national states were built after the fragmentation of the enormous viceroyalties of the Spanish empire. Latin American countries were usually imagined and shaped as such within the international division of economic production, structuring the dependency logics prevailing in the economic history of the region until nowadays.

The huge international migrations modified the ethnic classifications and racial imagination, however, emphasizing their hybrid demographic configurations. It was also the age of the making of social classes strongly interconnected with ethnic and gender hierarchies.

During the twentieth century Latin America became the most unequal continent of the world.

A long chronicle of authoritarian governments, social revolutions and populisms was the sign of a very complex political history. This political cycle was barred during the decades ofand even in the by brutal military dictatorships usually functional to the American and Western European side in the Cold War.

In Latin America it was first identified popullsmo neoliberalism and the Washington consensus. Towards the yearthe neoliberal program was in a profound crisis all over the subcontinent, generating popular mobilizations and reformist alliances.

But globalization was not considered as a synonym of neoliberalism anymore. The last feature of the fifth globalizing stream is the renaissance of the idea of a Latin American community forgotten after the fragmentation of the colonial space in first third of the nineteenth century. Each one should be studied in the context of global fluctuations of people, of capital, and of cultural hegemonies, in connection with other issues like war and diseases.

But the internal dynamics of Latin American history in the long run, the intricacies of its populations and struggles should be considered too. Let revllucion begin with the two main explanations: It is then possible to articulate urbanization, internal mass migrations, political instability, state interventionism in the economy, import substituting industrialization ISIrevolkcion more specifically political consequences: Concerning the social content or base of populism, the economic and social perspective stresses the importance of internal migrations and rapid urbanization, the lack of political experience and organizational skills among the new urban masses, and perhaps differences compared to the old working class, politically educated in the socialist, communist or anarchist programs.

Thus populism can be understood as heterogeneous social coalitions, multiclass incorporation of the masses, especially urban workers but also middle sectors; the populist alliance is usually led by leaders of middle or upper strata origins.

What is essential to note is the periodization related to this perspective. Because of its articulation with the structural requirements of the ISI the period appears as the chronological range of the populist stage.

Even if this approach can find knigt in previous times for instance in the Mexican revolutionary forces ofor in the Argentine Yrigoyenismo of the same period the clearest interpretations take the hegemonic crisis in the thirties as a point of departure.

They do not deny the relevance of the social and economic aspects, but make the core of populism rest on aptitudes to organize the political field in two halves, the popular and the anti-popular.

For this reason the chronological coverage is clearly different from the other explanation.

The main problem about social and economic explanation resides in its top-down conception of politics, where it is not easy to understand the activation of lower classes —even if domination concerning political and social demmocracia should not be forgotten—, a crucial aspect of Latin American populism. In the first case because it appears as an effect of structural changes without political singularities; in the second case because it rejects historical particularity.

Alan Knight (historian)

This was clear in State- or leader-centered approaches. This period was considered as the realm of a society oppressed by an authoritarian revoljcion. As a consequence, association was declared impossible and investigation of it remained superfluous. However, new research has shown the richness of associative life during the period, that was seized by Peronism as an object rvolucion political action, but where the articulation of neighborhood and politics remained alive.


It has also shown the relevance of this associative life to understand specific aspects of populist politics. There was an active associative life in the Peronist years.

Books by Alan Knight

It implied something very different than the abatement or downfall of associations caused by authoritarian pressure from the State: Peronist government was interested in the occupation of civil associations, which were considered as sites of power: Local demands were expressed by these complex associations: However, radicalization of statist programs ends up discouraging or repressing the associations in favor of state power.

It is not social history separated from politics. The Western conceptual categorization thus reveals its peculiarity and the use of global references begins to open the agenda for a global historiography.

The problem does not reside in the generality of the concept, but in the homogeneous categorization of the unequal times concomitant in the streams of the historical expansion of capitalism.

The dialectic between similarity and difference in historical situations requires a critique of the inherited concepts. It would be possible to expand the references, for instance, to Mexican cardenism, strongly based in the corporative organization of working class and peasantry.

Latin American Populism: Tentative Reflections for a Global Historiographical Perspective

It would be worth discussing the associative groundwork that was beginning to be interrelated with Gaitanismo until in Colombia, democrscia it shows similarities with the cases previously commented, in spite of strong national differences. But in this case the peculiarities of the Dominican Republic blocked all possibilities of an active civil society.

In other words, it seems to belong to the innovations induced by the fourth globalizing stream of Latin American perspective in a global history. However the functional explanation seems unable to describe the contingence of political identification.

I think that a global historical approach could help us to avoid the divide between the socio-economic and the political-ideological interpretations because it situates the populist moment in singular streams of globalizing tendencies as a singular segment of global history.

What should never be forgotten is that the global historiographical approach is a theoretically informed point of view generated during the last two streams of the globalizing process. In other words, despite the temptation of reifying global history as an objective reality, it is a retrospective reconstruction from the point of view of the current conceptual framework shaped in the context of an actually global capitalist world.

In other words, only a global historiographical perspective is competent to surpass the well-known Scylla of the list of national cases and the Charybdis of a block of undifferentiated populism. McNeill, The Rise of the West.

Penthouse | SAIS

Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World — Global Connections and Comparisons, Oxford: Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: EuropeLondon: Abacus, ; Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, ; Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire: Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century,London: California Academy of Sciences, Academic Press,3 vols. James, The Black Jacobins. Caminos de la izquierda latinoamericanaBuenos Aires: El problema de la CenicientaBuenos Aires: Eudeba, ; y Demcracia Ferreira ed.

Paz e Terra, ; Peter F. Era, democrqcia Carlos M. The Ecuadorian ExperienceAthens: University Press of Florida, Stanford University Press,