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Civilization and Violence: Regimes of Representation in Nineteenth-Century Colombia

Series: Borderlines
Volume: 19
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Civilization and Violence
    Book Description:

    Civilization and violence are not necessarily the antagonists we presume-with civilization taming violence, and violence unmaking civilization. Focusing on postindependence Colombia, this book brings to light the ways in which violence and civilization actually intertwined and reinforced each other in the development of postcolonial capitalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9069-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    Cristina Rojas’sCivilization and Violencedefies singular classification. Certainly it is about nineteenth-century Colombia. But the conceptual scope of the study takes its significance well beyond the character and political history of one state during its key nation-building century. The investigation seeks, first, to address an issue that transcends a particular period and place: the answer to the question “Why violence?” The pursuit of this answer leads Rojas into a highly original analysis of the civilizational commitments that Norbert Elias has shown to be central to European practices of distinction (or, more specifically, of invidious comparison). Rojas treats the Colombian...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Civilization as History
    (pp. xiii-xxx)

    Norbert Elias’s history of civilization in Western Europe points to one of the major dilemmas for a scholar dedicated to the study of violence and civilization in a Third World country. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, when European nations believed that they had achieved civilization within their own societies, they saw themselves as “bearers of an existing or finished civilization to others, as standard-bearers of expanding civilization.”¹ The process that made “civilization” an element of the national self-consciousness of the West was the same process that authorized violence in the name of civilization. The self-consciousness of civilization authorized...

  6. 1 The Will to Civilization
    (pp. 1-18)

    The mid–nineteenth century in Colombia has been commonly characterized as a period of economic liberalism. In this period Colombia opened up to external markets and adopted laissez-faire principles.¹ There is a strong tendency among historians of the nineteenth century to take for granted that the incorporation of the country into the world economy was the predominant desire on the part of the local elite.² The desire to open the country to external markets as an explanatory mechanism does not acknowledge the presence of parallel or substitute desires that may have had a greater effect on the relations of the...

  7. 2 Civilization and Violence
    (pp. 19-46)

    A significant paradox of Colombian history is the long history of violence and conflict that had been inserted into the democratic process. In the nineteenth century, after the War of Independence in 1810 there were nine civil wars and nearly fifty regional or local conflicts, most frequently in the period from 1863 to 1865. The questions frequently asked are “Why were the most notable proponents of civilization and progress also disruptive politicians?” and “Why was conflict mainly among the Liberal and Conservative elite?” Furthermore, the nineteenth-century history of civilization and violence is to a certain extent writing the history of...

  8. 3 The Political Economy of Civilization
    (pp. 47-64)

    The history of the development and geographical expansion of capitalism has been told as a story about how things are produced, exchanged, appropriated, and consumed. A concentration on the world of things encourages a mode of reasoning wherein commodities and labor are studied in abstraction from their social context. The discipline of economics assigns itself the task of uncovering and formulating universal laws that are held to regulate the world of things. Political economists have differentiated themselves from economists in their argument that the world of economic activity cannot be studied independent from the power structure that sustains exchange relations...

  9. 4 The Subalterns’ Voices
    (pp. 65-88)

    The will to civilization as a regime of representation not only was built in a process of exchange between a backward Latin America and a civilized Europe, but emerged, as well, from the process of exchange between dominating and subaltern voices. Subalterns were not passive recipients of what was said by male creole literati voices. As participants in the dialogue, they collaborated in or even resisted certain actions. Subalterns, who were located in the lower ranks of civilization—Indians, artisans, women, and blacks—had voices and a view from which they contested the monological representation of the world. Therefore, the...

  10. 5 The Will to Civilization and Its Encounter with Laissez-Faire
    (pp. 89-116)

    Scholars have turned to nineteenth-century Latin America in search of answers to the riddles of development. In the nineteenth century, Latin America opened up to external markets and the region adopted laissez-faire principles. This makes it a relatively recent real-world experiment whose results can be used to inform the liberal theory and liberal policies that are currently fashionable. The challenge for both liberals and their critics is to discover why in Latin America, after 150 years of linkage with the world economy and the introduction of capitalist property relations—ample time for the “logic of capitalism” to unfold—laissez-faire policies...

  11. 6 Representation, Violence, and the Uneven Development of Capitalism
    (pp. 117-162)

    Throughout this book I have put forward the hypothesis that the relationship between the development of capitalism and violence is better understood if we factor in the formation of meanings that have accompanied the expansion of capitalism, particularly meanings related to differences, identities, civilization, and violence. In preceding chapters I have conducted a critique of a political economy removed from the world of meanings. Similarly, I have rejected approaches that reduce violence to a phenomenal event or elevate violence to an inexorable law. I have argued that the strategies of understanding must incorporate the analysis of discourses. Furthermore, I firmly...

  12. Conclusion: Civilizations—Clash or Desire?
    (pp. 163-170)

    These epigraphs illustrate well the main paradox addressed in this book: the relationship between civilization and violence. Sigmund Freud’s statement was a response to Albert Einstein’s question “Why War?” which he formulated at the end of the First World War, and Huntington’s was a proposal for a new paradigm for interpreting the evolution of global politics after the Cold War. Although Freud saw in civilization a solution to war, Huntington saw civilization as a source of war. According to the former, the evolution of civilization consists of a progressive displacement of instinctual aims and restriction of instinctual impulses. One way...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 171-216)
  14. Index
    (pp. 217-224)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)