Multiple modernity1 Bolívar Echeverría

Before getting into the core of this presentation, I would like to tell you something about the perspective through which modernity has become a central theme of my work at the University of Me ico! It arises from my research in cultural history and, more specifically, into the history of "atin #merican culture during the $eventeenth century, the century of the Baro%ue! &his is a prolonged and seminal period of "atin #merican history, which happens to be a very neglected chapter in the academic books and studies of the continent's history! In "atin #merica, the theoretical approach to modernity has to do with a current discussion on the nature of political thought( the discussion about democracy, its possibilities at present and its economic and social promises for the future! It is well known ) and there is no need to insist on it** the situation of permanent economic and political disaster, in which the historical development of "atin #merica has been trapped and seemingly appears unable of breaking! &he catastrophic e ploitation of natural resources, to which we can add a similar catastrophic overe ploitation of labor, provides a volatile wealth that a small minority of the population consumes with scandalous rapidity! &his leaves almost nothing to contribute to an ob+ective, public infrastructure, and condemns the ma+ority of the people to misery and frustration! &he succession of all sorts of authoritarian regimes, interrupted by periods of weak and merely formal ,democratic- governments, confirms time and again that the oligarchy remains the untouched species of political life in "atin #merica! In the last ten years, as the ,socialist perspective- seems to have lost relevance, and radical revolution is no longer seen as a realistic alternative, the current political and sociotheoretical thought sets the clock back almost e actly one hundred years! .hat "atin #merican societies must do in order to get out of this destructive and self*destructive destiny should be, once more, to accomplish a historical transition from pre*modern social organi/ation to a real modern one!


0resentation at a 1ollo%uium on 23IIth 1entury in Me ico, organi/ed! by 4osefa $almon, "oyola University, 5ew 6rleans, 7881!


is the leading statement9 only by applying the "atin #merican republics! 2 . the current generation of leading politicians and academics revives another method of reaching it.mean in the case of "atin #merica> &he moderni/ation of a social and historical reality characteri/ed as pre*modern.policy@ is nothing more than the combined shock of total liberali/ation in the field of economics and a complete institutionali/ation of representative democracy in political life! . a change of identity! #nd what can this change of identity possibly mean> It could mean either change as a complete substitution of the traditional identity or change as a renewed reconstitution of that identity! &he first definition of radical change.hat does . the conditions of in+ustice prevailing in these republics can be really changed! 6n the other hand. at the e act place where the left used to put the idea of politics.the circle of democracy and development-! :. the old method of moderni/ation9 restores the idea of the healing effects of a moderni/ation shock! &he shock of moderni/ation ?another name for . a change of its essential features.moderni/ation.emocracy first<. it appears also as a pre*condition and as a result of democracy! =ow can this vicious circle be broken> =ow can democracy and development be reached simultaneously> "eftist intellectuals and social reformers used to have an answer to this %uestion! But now. as substitution of identity. has been tried by the official pra is for almost two centuries by successive waves of . democracy appears as a pre*condition of economic and social development but also as a result of them! #nd the same occurs with development.neoliberal. implies or brings with it **both again as a condition and as a result** a radical change. it is impossible for democracy to become an essential part of political life without a minimum of fair economic play and a minimun of +ustice in social life! &hus.&he history of "atin #merican nations beginning with the wars of Independence against $pain in the early 5ineteenth century has been a history that repeats a peculiar and never*ending circular pattern of behavior9 a vicious circle that can be called .

this so* called .modern.ía/ in Me ico a hundred years ago. a fact that begins with the unfair subsidy of the national capitalists by the state ?to make them better able to compete on the world market@ and continues to trickle down to the whole economy and the entire social body! Aor instance in politics( the e cesses of militarism.democratism. could be mentioned as a salient e ample of this! Arench. populism. or if you want democracy and development are two goals ine tricably linked together. almost tribal e ercise of local power played out at the national political level.estern. they characteri/e modernity as such! But **and this is the %uestion**.. English.political culture with the old identity and the traditional political culture9 a mi ture where the new and modern appears too weak to become e clusive. social. and where the old one proves to be too strong to be eliminated! #s you can see.. substitution of identity is a way of moderni/ation that has failed time and again in the history of "atin #merica! &he repeated failure of these attempts has had its byproducts( a long list of monstrous phenomena on the economic and political scene. the theme of modernity appears in "atin #merica as a %uestion of cultural and historical anthropology! Emancipation and affluence. can modernity only e ist as what we know traditionally as .esternmodernity> 3 . which are usually seen as almost pictures%ue features of social life in "atin #merica! Aor instance. is this established.image of this pairing ?democracy and development@ its only possible actuali/ation> In fact. a peculiar adaptive configuration of . corruption. oligarchic .etc! &he best e ample of this is perhaps .natural-. #merican identity can be pointed out as the identities that "atin #merican societies were induced to copy and reproduce as their own! Beginning with the attempt of the Bourbonian Despotisme Illustré during the Eighteenth century.&he administration of 0orfirio .caci%uismo-. right in the middle of modern institutional life! &his is a form of domination that pervades economic. . political and high cultural life in "atin #merica! &his phenomenon can only be understood as the result of a process of hybridi/ation9 it is a conflictive mi ture of the new imported identity and its .caudillismo-. but most of all. and they become possible only in modern civili/ation9 even more..

#merican democracy-. as Mar formulates civilisation materielle-** seems to be. could only e ist in the presence of an ..#le is de &oc%ueville observed that the spread of democracy.spirit-. Darl Mar 's critical approach to the capitalist reproduction of social wealth becomes crucial! &his is so. on the one hand. as an economic fact sustained by a .modernity! .**that civili/ed life! &hat is why he meant that only certain countries should try to be democratic and certain others. artificial or capitalistic*mercantile mode of performing that same reproduction. on the other! &his is the contradiction that appears in the ob+ective world under the the form of a contradiction between the .estern modernity. .civili/ation should be seen as emerging under the gravitation of a dominant necessity. because cultural forms. Ma . always come up as condensations of strategies for surmounting a contradiction between the renewed needs of the social body and the new limits put to them by nature. Fnatural' or non*mercantile mode of reproduction of social life.e change value..use*value.eber spoke of capitalism and the main feature of modernity. by a pattern of behavior that matches at best with a community of 1alvinistic*protestant ethics! Many other observations and studies similar to those of de &oc%ueville and .ethic of productivistic self*repression-.eber determined what can be called the cultural determination of .of the same on the other! GGG &hus. and an abstract. the . as Eeorge Bataille says. of .estern. strategies to reach a compromise between drives and constrains! &he specific contradiction of social life in modern civili/ation **a contradiction that can be found at the core of what Aernand Braudel calls . becomes the feature of an economic and a political culture! &hese are the features of communal identity that lead us to study . the necessity to surmount the .estern development** as a huge and a very comple figure in cultural history! #t this point. as he understood it. cultural forms in modern . and the .egalitarian trend.estern..of things.contradiction between the concrete.capitalist contradictionprevailing in modern everyday life! &his contradiction dominates not only the modern process of circulation of social wealth as a huge world of commodities but each and every act of production and consumption of concrete goods and services! 4 .# trend towards egalitarian behavior. like Bussia or $outh #merica. should not! # hundred years later.estern democracyC. on the one social life9 social internali/ation of an .

that they are tendentially non e istent! Aor him.. the life that produces and consumes values in use as such.civili/ation through a determining e perience.dynamic of production and consumption of .but a history of its e clusivity! 5ow.estern.spirit of capitalism.#ccording to Mar . a life that cares only about the growth or the progress of the piece of capital ?riches@ that it presumes to posses! Ma ..eber's assumption is that all other possible . the capitalistic*mercantile mode of it! &he life that produces and consumes abstract economic values. the reproduction dynamic of the concrete %ualitative dimension of social body and social wealth can be seen as the .calls. in sum. that is. but they cannot hide the fact that the most radical and acute contradiction with which they have to deal is the contradiction between **on the one hand** the .or the . says Mar ** by the second.values in use-.estern. as a process of work and en+oyment! &he second one.natural. where the %ualitative dimension of life is constantly sacrificed to the economic*%uantitative part of itself! Identities. only %uantitatively growing dimension of the social world can be seen as the dynamic of production and consumption of pure economic value. all perception of the world of life and its components must come in modern . the concrete one.spirit of capitalism-. that cares about the concrete consistency of the world. modern history is not only a history of the dominance of the . a reproductions dynamic of the abstract. on the other hand. amounts to a sort of currency that is a meant for nothing but its own reproduction. that is. if we observe modern society before its hypothetical total conversion to the 5 . the abstract one9 a world.mode of social life.spirits. to the behavior pattern that capitalism re%uires of modern human beings so they can lead a prosperous life! =is book on this matter may be seen as one of the best theoretical approaches to the basic cultural form in modern . as a process of e ploitation of surplus value and accumulation of capital! Modern people must live in a world where the first of these two dynamics. the e perience of this capitalistic contradiction! Modern people must live in a world that pays obedience to two legalities at the same time9 a world that follows simultaneously two incompatible organi/ing principles and has therefore two divergent dynamics! &he first one. cultural forms in modern times can then come up as condensations of very different strategies to surmount countless sorts of conflictive situations.eber studies 0rotestant ethics as the most pure or ade%uate response to the . is permanently dominated and subordinated **subsumiert.natural.that may still be active in modern society are condemned to disappear.or all other possible .civili/ation! Ma .

reality in what otherwise could be considered a 6 .spirit of capitalism. in its contradictory determination. responses that are being reproduced together and parallel to 0rotestant ethics! &he %uestion in modern society seems to be not about how to obey the .spirit of capitalism-.0rotestant. less conspicuously.model of modern emancipation and affluence. not an assumption of the cultural forms based on .spirit of capitalism-. but an internal change to another possible modern identity. so called .ethics.. then that change of identity that is considered indispensable for the moderni/ation of the "atin #merican societies could not be necessarily a substitution of identity. that could be considered now as valid and possible> If we look at people's everyday behavior in the capitalist mode of modern life. then the %uestion arises unavoidably is if the cultural form that comes from the 0rotestant ethics the only or e clusive basic cultural form in modern . this %uestion is crucial if we have to deal with such problems of identity as the problems that I mentioned before in the case of the "atin #merican societies! Because if we can assert that . as being the only possible one.or the . a . then we can answer in the affirmative to the crucial %uestion about whether or not there are there other alternative figures of modern democracy and modern development to the established one.0rotestant.estern civili/ation> 6r can we think of other basic cultural forms that come from other strategies and patterns of behavior under the gravitation of capitalist contradiction> #s you can see. we can detect not one but several spontaneous ways of composing a strategy to convert it into a normal.basic form of modern culture is not the only one but +ust one of several other possible versions of this basic cultural form. if we do not think of modern ethics only in terms of contributing or supporting capitalism but in terms of enduring or bearing we can see a society that lives under capitalism but has developed many impure or not %uite ade%uate responses to the .and identify one self with it.ethics-! If we contest the claim by the now dominant. to neutrali/e it and to make habitable or livable a world that otherwise would be unbearable because of its inner contradiction! If we consider this fact. a radical re*constitution of cultural forms based on another sort of modern . about the strategy re%uired in every day life to surmount the capitalistic contradiction. but.natural.

is of course the most functional cultural basic form that comes up in the capitalistic modernity! It favors capitalist development. the romantic ethos and the baro%ue ethos! "et's consider very briefly the main features of these four figures of modern ethos! &he strategy of behavior that we call realistic corresponds in many ways to the . a peculiar way of accomplishment of that concrete or .eber! It has a particular but very effective way of neutrali/ing the capitalistic contradiction( it uses the recourse of simply denying it! 1oncrete %ualitative needs are perfectly convertible to %uantitative abstract*mercantile needs9 whatever is good for the accumulation of capital is also good for the improvement of values in use! #ccumulation and satisfaction are for this ethos essentially the same9 they are practically not discernable from each other! &here is no place for a contradiction9 the .hostile. the classical ethos. the . for both of these strategies.form of the dynamics of social reproduction is for him perfectly well represented by its mercantile*capitalistic dynamics! &he conflicts that may appear between them are due to e ceptional. members of a concrete community. we can call them( the realistic ethos. but on the contrary because this capitalist form is a special historical configuration. reproduction of capital and reali/ation of values in use coincide! But.of human life is reducible to the capitalist form. unlivable reality! If we take as the main criterion for classifying these many strategies the specific attitude towards the capitalist contradiction that we can find in each of them. for the romantic ethos this happens not because the concrete or .0rotestant ethics.spirit of enterprise-! Individuals are not +ust a mass of working forces under the command of capital but real sovereign sub+ects. opposite to realism. in the same measure in which capitalist development confirms it! &he second modern strategy for living under capitalism. a macro*sub+ect that is the national state. a sub+ect that has the command over his national accumulation of capital! 7 .natural form. we distinguish four different types! Borrowing the terminology of the main stylistic trends in the history of art since the Benaissance.natural. accidental episodes of malfunction that the march of progress will soon eliminate! &his realistic ethos. the . shares with the former the same attitude of denial facing the capitalist contradiction in economic life! Aar from being incompatible.natural form-! #ccumulation becomes transfigured ?verklHrt@9 it is not +ust an economic compulsion but it has a concrete spiritual dignity9 it is a reali/ation of the spirit.described by . without any utopian weakness or deviation. that teaches to take life under capitalism e actly as it is.romantic ethos-.

only ornamental in a traditional renaissance painting. subordinated function! &ake.dynamics of social reproduction to the dynamics of the . a .classical. the .Decorazione assoluta-. become at that point protagonistic that they are able to propose their own . an imagined.! #dorno to Baro%ue art! .strategy to live under capitalism constructs a positive attitude towards it but only inasmuch as capitalism appears as an unavoidable condition of the new possibilities that technical progress opens to human life! &he philosophes of the Enlightenment period of Arench history would be perhaps the best e ponents of this modern ethos! But preparing oneself to live within capitalism. but in itself it also implies a deep conformity with it. for instance.natural.of capital! It reali/es the e perience of sacrifice that this subordination implies and keeps its distance from the capitalist destiny! &he . says Mar @! &his Baro%ue behavior turns the sacrifice of the real %ualitative consistence of the world into a construction of an imagined second %ualitative consistence for it! :Man can endure in the real. by means of neutrali/ing its contradiction.&he third modern ethos. the baro%ue basic cultural form can **as well as the classic or the romantic can in their own way** be seen as an obstacle in the pure and orthodo development of capitalism. certain of its elements or levels that should be secondary. an identification of the human sub+ect with the subordination or subsuming of . the famous trompe-l’oeil 8 .self*valuing economic value?sichselbst verwertende wert. an acceptance of capitalist destiny! . dysfunctional behavior is also able to neutrali/e that contradiction in everyday life! &hat is the case of the baro%ue version of modern ethos! #ware of the subordination and the sacrifice that it implies.classical ethos-.transreal.way! &his could be the motto of the baro%ue ethos! 6f course. does not always imply an internali/ing or an affirmative attitude towards the subordination of concrete reproduction of life under the reproduction of capital! # negative.forming under the . takes another way to neutrali/e the capitalist contradiction of modern life! It does not imply. unbearable conditions of life during the capitalist modernity. as an e ample. of essential and accessory levels! In a Baro%ue painting. a second degree principle. so refers &h! . but only if he simultaneously re*tells himself his e perience in another way. the Baro%ue strategy **completely opposite to the realistic and the romantic and clearly different from the classicalI it does not internali/e that capitalist fate and is also reluctant to accept the sacrifice of the .hat he means is that the specific feature of a Baro%ue work have to be found in the ambiguity of the dialectics of central and peripheral elements. for the picture as a whole. as the earlier two do. yet without abandoning its

as Braudel calls contrabando-. as 1arpentier used to call it! 9 .on Kui ote has arrived to the point where only the translation of it into a tale can make it acceptable for him! 6nly .informal.on Kui ote satiri/es in its beginnings! Much research coincides in confirming a main hypothesis of economic history that says that an . was in process of formation during the seventeenth century( #n .Lconomie*monde. . in his ambivalent **condemning and praising**approach to the =ispanic world at the beginning of the so called . for that world of values in use that is being sacrificed to the accumulation of capital! &his similarity is the reason for the name .Baro%ue.economie-monde-. enigmatical way** is similar to the uneasiness of modern everyday life as it appears to the .that was mostly . e aggerated or caricaturi/ed figure of . the image contains a duplication of itself within itself.aestheti/ed.estern capitalist modernity! I would like to insist on this issue of Baro%ue modernity because **as I already told you** the concept of a baro%ue ethos can give us an important key for the comprehension of the "atin #merican societies.on Kui ote! If we look now with archaeological eyes to the present forms of "atin #merican everyday culture. has shown the first historical results of typical baro%ue behavior in the satiric. we find that most of them refer us undoubtedly to the seventeenth century. a duplication that over*determines it and makes it mean uncertainly more than it would mean as a classical image! &his uneasiness with the very fact of representation that prevails in the Baro%ue representation of the world **an uneasiness that leads the work of art to be always transcending itself.or .B. always telling that it says more and always doing so but in a fleeting. an imagined consistence.literaturi/ed?made part of a roman of chivalry@ can reality be bearable for this allegory of decadent $pain that is .Mediterranean $ea-. was strong enough as to organi/e with its underground legality most of the economic life of Me ico and 0eru.ethos when it creates a second %ualitative consistence.for the fourth of the basic cultural forms that we try to describe in the .on Kui ote! In his misunderstandings with the real the Meninas*painting by 3elJ/%ue/! In a Baro%ue image.. unifying it around the commercial activity of the 1aribbean .Baro%ue century-. that didn't develop as a result of a economic policy of the $panish 1rown but against it. to the baro%ue culture that 1ervantes' . in the margins of it or beneath it. their culture and their history! 1ervantes.

not only according to the specific human codification that shapes that human codification into a very peculiar form! 1ulture is the process 10 . its concrete. not only had the ancient civili/ation of #merican Indians had been completely destroyed together with O8 per cent of its people.method.state.1atholic.methodof .or .large 23II century!.&he formation process of this "atin #merican economie monde **an interrupted process** takes place during the historical period of a .informal.criollos-. an .of historical change in the history of human culture( the . an action in which the 1ompaMía de 4esNs took a very important part! &he broad and persistent utopian activity of the 4esuits.modernity** gave to the development of "atin #merican culture some of its baro%ue orientations! .cultural crossing!.large 23II century.But not only was there a strong organi/ing action that came from the urban centers dominated by the .state within the state.1ulture can be defined as the process in which a community cultivates its identity. were e hausted and in danger of regression or disappearance! &he recivili/ing reaction to this desperate situation came as a compelling reactuali/ation of what has always been the . but also the incrustations of European civili/ation. that spread from 1alifornia to 0araguay **an activity that was focused on rebuilding the 1atholic world according to the pro+ect of a specific . conscious and organi/ed origin of the Baro%ue forms of "atin #merican culture! I will say instead a few words on the spontaneous origin of them! &he Baro%ue appears originally as a spontaneous behavior by the remaining Indian population in the urban centers of ML ico and 0erN! It appears as a survival*strategy in a situation of general decay of civili/ed life in #merican $pain during the first decade of the 23II century! In fact.that could not be allowed to continue! I won't try now to approach this reflected.that begins with the defeat of the $panish Gran Armada at the end of the 23I century and ends with the e pulsion of the Compañía de Jes s in the second half of the 23III century! &he nuclear form of the characteristic features of "atin #merica culture was built spontaneously in this .mesti/a+e. as well in its pra is as in its discourse. singular way of being human! Each community behaves.e should not forget that the reason that 1arlos III gave for the e pulsion of the 4esuits was that they **in a very Baro%ue way** had constructed an . that only a few years earlier had been strong and flourishing.

the baro%ue modernity.method. this process of cultural . can be found as that that determines the forms of civili/ed life still prevailing 11 . or something more9 they took in their hands the task of reconstructing a . political activity during that . implies this process of mutual devouring. but they did something else too.criollo.estern civili/ation that was not able to reproduce itself properly in #merica anymore! &hey worked in their own way in the .long 1Pth century!.It is a historical process that follows a baro%ue strategy. cultivation of identity.of cultural historical change! &heir behavior was typically baro%ue! &hey accepted that they had been defeated.estern cultural structure and transformed it from within! &he Indian*mesti/o population invented a way )a baro%ue wayIto live the decline of .centers. the same strategy that was described as a distinctive feature of the fourth ethos in capitalist modernity! Modernity is multiple! &here are at least four basic types of modernity. an openness to other possibilities of being human! 6nly when a community yields to this need of the 6ther and loosens the stiffness of its subcodification can really cultivate its own being! &he life of culture is only possible when an identity is ready to be devoured by other identities and is capable of devouring them! 1ulture. and had to survive in them.estern*European or $panish civili/ation as a peculiar manner of civili/ed life.estern civili/ation! &his is the spontaneous historical process which created the original cultural forms that we can find until now characteri/ing the "atin #merican societies9 those forms that the .society adopted and developed in its reflective. and one of them. as a new. reinvented for the modern times this old .civili/ed.estern European identity of the $paniards! &hey did this. that their ancient world had been annihilated and could not be revived anymore9 they adapted the new world of the con%uerors and let their identity be devoured by the .of material and symbolic reproduction of this sub*codification in every day life9 a process that goes together with the material production and consumption of meanings! But reproduction of identity does not mean preservation of protection of identity! Each subcodification of the human behavior implies not only the construction of a closed world but also the recognition of its own limitation9 it implies not only the e clusion of all other alternative subcodifications but also a need for them.mesti/a+e-! &hat part of the Indian population of Me ico and 0eru at the beginning of the 1Pth century that was not e pelled from the . properly #merican type of .

an alternative modernity could still be a real perspective! 12 . like the baro%ue modernity of "atin #merica! In times like societies like those of "atin #merica! It is a very ineffective and subordinated version of modernity because it doesn't organi/e the world in order to improve the capitalistic mode of economic reproduction but only in order to reconstruct the possibilities of human life that are being sacrificed by that mode of reproduction! I gather that there is a lesson to be learned from the actual e istence of such failed or not successful forms of modern life. in which current modern life seems to lead civili/ed life to a self*murderous future. after all. a historical account showing the plural tradition of modernity can let us hope that not every possible civili/ed life will be lost with the end of capitalist modernity9 that.