The Misadventures of Latin American Marxism. Intellectual Journeys Towards the Deprovincialization of Marxist Thought

Lagos, Felipe. 2017. The Misadventures of Latin American Marxism. Intellectual Journeys Towards the Deprovincialization of Marxist Thought. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This work revisits some trajectories of Marxism in Latin America characterized by their non-official or critical stance vis-à-vis official versions of Marxism, in order to trace and reconstruct a number of attempts to produce a distinctive ‘Latin American Marxism’. The theoretical framework of the thesis draws upon the conceptual achievements of the authors and currents revisited, based (sometimes wittingly and explicitly, sometimes not) on the categories of uneven and combined development, plural temporalities, and translation. Chapter I organizes the conceptual framework that accompanies the reconstruction, in which the common ground of the selected authors lies in to put into question the developmentalist and modernization apparatus that characterized official Marxism during the 20th century.

Chapter II and III reconstruct the work of Peruvian José Carlos Mariátegui, considered as the foremost translation of Marxism into a communal-popular perspective with roots in the Andean indigenous community or ayllu. Chapter II focuses on the centrality of ‘uneven and combined development’ in his confrontation to both the homogeneizing perspective of the Second International and the theoretical ‘exceptionalism’ claimed by Haya de la Torre for Latin America. Chapter III continues the reconstruction of Mariátegui’s Marxism in a different yet related register, namely through the incorporation of the notion of ‘myth’. The notion appears as a keystone to comprehend Mariátegui’s incorporation of the Andean ethno-cultural memories in the conceptual registers of historical materialism.

Chapter IV to VI address some reflections on the concomitances and tensions between Marxism and the ‘national-popular’ in Latin America. Chapter IV revisits the so-called dependency theory, a heterogeneous ‘school’ which questioned the assumptions of modernization theories and desarrollista frameworks. The chapter evaluates the extent to which the dependency school was able to disengage itself from the notion of development, from a geopolitically-located conceptualization of the capitalist world structure. Chapter V revisits the work of Argentinean Marxist José Aricó, in particular his reading of the ‘misencounter’ (desencuentro) between Marx and Latin America in the midst of the ‘crisis of Marxism’ during the 1970s and ‘80s. The chapter argues that the notion of ‘misencounter’ can be read from the logic of uneven and combined development and its effects in the development of Marxist theory in the sub-continent.

Chapter VI, finally, reconstructs the Marxism of Bolivian René Zavaleta Mercado, focusing on the characterization of Bolivia as ‘motley’ society (sociedad abigarrada), and the different temporalities that feature so defined social structures. In his attempt to produce local knowledge, Zavaleta envisaged a theoretical encounter between the working class and the indigenous movements in the midst of the question of democracy.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Latin America, Marxist Theory, Uneven Development, Temporalities, Deprovincialization

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31 February 2017

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Date Deposited:

27 Mar 2017 09:39

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:46


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