The Centralist Tradition of Latin America

The Centralist Tradition of Latin America

Claudio Véliz
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    The Centralist Tradition of Latin America
    Book Description:

    The author describes and analyzes four principal factors that distinguish Latin America from the countries that share the northwestern European tradition: the absence of the feudal experience; the absence of religious nonconformity; the absence of any conceivable counterpart of the Industrial Revolution; and the absence of those ideological, social, and political developments associated with the French Revolution.

    Originally published in 1980.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5730-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    Disillusionment and perplexity appear to be the most obvious consequences of recent attempts to reform, modernize, revolutionize, or otherwise transform the countries of Latin America. I am convinced that this is a result of the mistaken belief that the experience of the industrialized countries of northwestern Europe and the interpretative models derived from it are precisely applicable to the peoples of the southern regions of the New World. I am also convinced that the proliferation of authoritarian regimes during the past few years is not an aberration of moral and political taste, but a manifestation of a style of political...

  6. 1 Postfeudal Conquest
    (pp. 16-28)

    The Iberian countries of the Western Hemisphere entered the modern age as administrative, legal, and political creations of a postfeudal Castilian monarchy committed to the principle of central control.¹ The political and administrative structure of Hispanic America owes its centralism to an emphatically centralist Castile and not to a more or less pluralistic Spain. The new realm was given order, system, and hierarchy by ministers and monarchs who contemplated the world of the Renaissance not from a cultivated cosmopolitan city in a divided Italy, but from the cold, windswept, and introspective capital of a united Spain. This Castilian character persisted...

  7. 2 Castilian Origins
    (pp. 29-45)

    Castile under Ferdinand and Isabella was the strongest centralized monarchy of its time able to exercise effective control over Spain and vast overseas territories in a manner that justifies the description of the Spanish Empire as the “first world power.”¹ This was not the result of good fortune or dynastic accident, but of policies pursued tenaciously over a long period of time. The feat was achieved when the power of monarchs was on the increase, but whereas elsewhere feudal establishments were able to obstruct the authority of crowned heads, in Castile the political and military might of the nobility was...

  8. 3 The Regalist Indies
    (pp. 46-69)

    By the time of Columbus’s discovery Castilian feudalism had ceased to exist as a viable political arrangement; it was not resurrected to be carried across the Atlantic by the conquerors. But this did not wholly exclude the possibility of anachronistic feudal practices, habits, and, eventually, institutions emerging from the unspoiled and conveniently distant political soil of the Indies, either as independent growths or as responses to circumstances similar to those that gave rise to Old World feudalism.¹ What is known about the character of those who participated in the conquest would of itself suggest this possibility; ruthless and cunning survivors,...

  9. 4 Bourbon Recentralization
    (pp. 70-89)

    Among modern empires, the Spanish American has been the largest and the longest lived; it encompassed a considerable portion of the world, and it lasted for just over three hundred years before its dissolution early in the nineteenth century.¹ During this period, Spain was an active and at times a principal participant in European politics. In addition to the political and economic stresses imposed by its external stance, Spain had to endure dynastic and domestic difficulties that were naturally reflected in the imperial arrangements. Such vicissitudes reacting on each other produced a varied and extremely complex historical process that is...

  10. 5 Pombaline Recentralization
    (pp. 90-115)

    It is possible to see the history of the Iberian peninsula from earliest times until the present as an intermittent struggle between center and periphery, between a regalist, bureaucratic, legalistic, nationalistic, and relatively illiberal Castilian center and a cosmopolitan, outward-looking, trading, industrious, and relatively liberal periphery. Two observations would follow from such an interpretation: first, that the center has prevailed, notwithstanding the continued reluctance of the peripheral regions to accept its dominance (Catalonia and the Basque country may resist stubbornly, but they are undoubtedly integral parts of the Spanish nation rather than discrete cultural and political entities); second, that Portugal...

  11. 6 The Central State and the Liberalization of Trade
    (pp. 116-140)

    According to Arnold Toynbee, the decline of empires is usually attended by a transfer of power from the center outwards, more often than not the result of a successful challenge issuing from the periphery that the imperial center is unable to withstand.¹ In support of this general statement he mentions plausible examples drawn from the classical Mediterranean civilizations, from the Far East, and pre-Columbian America, but the cases of the Spanish and Portuguese American empires clearly constitute exceptions, for these are not examples of imperial bastions overwhelmed by a peripheral challenge. If it were permissible to make use of a...

  12. 7 The Survival of Political Centralism
    (pp. 141-162)

    Strengthened and modernized by the reforms of the Enlightenment, the centralism of three hundred years of colonial rule survived into nineteenth-century Latin America, devolving on the leadership of the infant republics the task of adapting it to their needs of legitimacy and organization. During the years immediately following the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and the formation of governing juntas in the American colonies, this proved a most difficult and, at times, almost an impossible task. The outlying provinces were woefully unprepared for the swift collapse of the imperial center after it was torn by conflicting loyalties, pushed this way and...

  13. 8 Outward-Looking Nationalism and the Liberal Pause
    (pp. 163-188)

    Nationalistic feelings are often, if not always, accompanied by a blossoming of intellectual and artistic curiosity about one’s own historical traditions. Rising nationalism requires national explanations and justifications; it demands historical foundations on which to construct doctrines of purpose and certain destiny; it needs to define the aspirations of the national entity in terms rooted in a common understanding of cultural traits such as language, religion, and a shared historical experience that will bind a people together and distinguish them from others. Nationalism is about origins, and the intellectual demands it generates lead to introspection; they require a nationalistic scrutiny...

  14. 9 Latitudinarian Religious Centralism
    (pp. 189-217)

    Hobsbawm has described the transition to a more secular society in nineteenth-century Europe as the most profound of all contemporary ideological changes. Religion, he explains, “from being something like the sky, from which no man can escape and which contains all that is above the earth, became something like a bank of clouds, a large but limited and changing feature of the human firmament.”¹ It should do no violence to the inner meaning of this metaphor to use it to explain that in Latin America the sky has remained cloudless for almost five centuries. There have been no transformations, no...

  15. 10 A Preindustrial Urban Culture
    (pp. 218-236)

    In the advanced countries of the Northern Hemisphere, urbanization and industrialization proceeded along parallel courses; the overwhelming majority of the peoples of these countries lived away from the cities before the advent of industrialization, and it was factors such as the rise in agricultural productivity, improvements in communications, and the spread of the factory system that were mostly responsible for the rural exodus and the corresponding growth of modern urban centers. Inextricably bound together, industrialization and urbanization have modified and reacted on each other, their interaction resulting in the proliferation of modern cities that bear the mark of the machine...

  16. 11 The British Model of Industrialization
    (pp. 237-250)

    The centralism that so forcefully shaped the political and religious arrangements of Latin Americans during four centuries has not been absent from the sphere of economic activity. The question of whether it was a centralist economy that forced political centralization on Latin American society or whether the persistent centralist bias in all other aspects of Latin American life also influenced economic arrangements is an important one and deserves scrutiny if only to satisfy intellectual curiosity. However, the following examination of the process of centralist industrialization is based on the acceptance of the latter view as a valid and useful functional...

  17. 12 The Latin American Experience of Industrialization
    (pp. 251-278)

    In less than a generation, the countries of Latin America adopted the industrial technology that took Europeans centuries to create. It has been tempting, for many of those who lived through this process, to hope that the wholesale introduction of this advanced technology would somehow turn Latin Americans into Europeans or force on Latin American society the changes experienced by Europe during the time modern industrial technology was developed and applied. Those who felt that what had actually happened in the Europe of the nineteenth century was worth having made sincere efforts to use the opportunity to transform this or...

  18. 13 Authoritarian Recentralization
    (pp. 279-306)

    Seventeen governments were overthrown by force in twelve Latin American countries during the three years that followed the Great Depression of 1929.¹ Twenty-five years later, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction, and the mood was distinctly social democratic and populist. Another twenty-odd years bring us to the present when all but three countries are under authoritarian centralist regimes, most of them military, but some civilian as well. These changes and counter changes reflect the fluctuations of the closing years of the liberal pause and the prosperity that sustained it.² After what appeared like an auspicious mid-nineteenth-century beginning, followed by...

  19. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 307-328)
  20. Index
    (pp. 329-355)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 356-356)