Political Cultures in the Andes, 1750-1950


A major contribution to debates about Latin American state formation, Political Cultures in the Andes brings together comparative historical studies focused on Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth. While highlighting patterns of political discourse and practice common to the entire region, these state-of-the-art histories show how national and local political cultures depended on specific constellations of power, gender and racial orders, processes of identity ...

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Political Cultures in the Andes, 1750

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A major contribution to debates about Latin American state formation, Political Cultures in the Andes brings together comparative historical studies focused on Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth. While highlighting patterns of political discourse and practice common to the entire region, these state-of-the-art histories show how national and local political cultures depended on specific constellations of power, gender and racial orders, processes of identity formation, and socioeconomic and institutional structures.

The contributors foreground the struggles over democracy and citizens’ rights as well as notions of race, ethnicity, gender, and class that have been at the forefront of political debates and social movements in the Andes since the waning days of the colonial regime some two hundred years ago. Among the many topics they consider are the significance of the Bourbon reform era to subsequent state-formation projects, the role of race and nation in the work of early-twentieth-century Bolivian intellectuals, the fiscal decentralization campaign in Peru following the devastating War of the Pacific in the late nineteenth century, and the negotiation of the rights of “free men of all colors” in Colombia’s Atlantic coast region during the late colonial period. Political Cultures in the Andes includes an essay by the noted Mexicanist Alan Knight in which he considers the value and limits of the concept of political culture and a response to Knight’s essay by the volume’s editors, Nils Jacobsen and Cristóbal Aljovín de Losada. This important collection exemplifies the rich potential of a pragmatic political culture approach to deciphering the processes involved in the formation of historical polities.

Contributors. Cristóbal Aljovín de Losada, Carlos Contreras, Margarita Garrido, Laura Gotkowitz, Aline Helg, Nils Jacobsen, Alan Knight, Brooke Larson, Mary Roldan, Sergio Serulnikov, Charles F. Walker, Derek Williams

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Political Cultures in the Andes is an extraordinary book, one of those books that both provides fresh perspectives and brings together significant trends that have been in the air recently. The volume is full of provocative and interesting essays. This is a must-read for historians interested in the Andes or politics in Latin America more generally.”—Peter Guardino, author of The Time of Liberty: Popular Political Culture in Oaxaca, 1750–1850
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822335153
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Series: Latin America Otherwise Series
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Nils Jacobsen is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Mirages of Transition: The Peruvian Altiplano, 1780–1930.

Cristóbal Aljovín de Losada is Director of the Master’s Program in History at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru. He is the author of Caudillos y constituciones: Perú, 1821–1845.

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Read an Excerpt



Copyright © 2005 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-3515-3

Chapter One



Nils Jacobsen and Cristóbal Aljovín de Losada

It is hardly surprising that the study of political cultures has gained in popularity over the past decade. A confluence of major political events and reorientations of intellectual currents has once again focused attention on the production of consent and dissent in all types of political regimes, while questioning mechanistic linkages between economies and polities. The fall of the Soviet Union, the wave of democratization (however shallow), the resurgence of ethnic nationalism and communalism, and, among intellectual currents, the fall from grace of Marxism, "the linguistic turn," and the broad-based critique of Eurocentrism signaled some of the most salient trends of the late twentieth century on a global scale. In the case of Latin America, the winding down of the region's "thirty years war" (Jorge Castañeda) between military-authoritarian regimes and guerrilla movements, along with the upsurge in "new social movements" of women, shantytown dwellers, and indigenous and black groups, put issues of democracy, inclusion in the political arena, and the role of civilsociety at center stage.

Political culture assumes that culture provides meaning to human actions. We understand culture as a malleable ensemble of symbols, values, and norms that constitute the signification linking individuals to social, ethnic, religious, political, and regional communities. A pragmatic political culture perspective does not a priori exclude other approaches to the understanding of historical and contemporary polities, such as political economy and institutional analysis.

Still, behavior of individuals and groups cannot be derived in a linear fashion from interests or institutional constraints. As the case studies in this book will show, human actions are always involved in a complex language of symbols and values that make them intelligible to self and others. In focusing on the meaning with which public symbols, rituals, discourses, sequences of actions, and institutions are imbued by individuals and groups, the political culture perspective illuminates the production of consent and dissent to regimes, parties, movements, or political leaders. It yields insights into the mechanics by which polities sustain themselves or are challenged or toppled.

Relations of power undergird any political process. They necessarily draw on subjective, cultural, and interest and institutional dimensions. In the modern era, publicly wielded power, as well as the key dimensions of a polity-citizenship, laws, institutions-is related to the state. Thus the nature of the state, the nature of civil society, and the nature of their contested relationship are crucial subjects for the political-culture perspective. The way a state operates and is institutionalized sets the framework of politics and shapes political practices and identities.

The kind of perspective on political culture advocated here is helpful for bringing into a common frame of discussion various conceptual approaches to nation-state formation and the construction of power in Latin America, approaches which often fail to communicate with each other. To simplify, we can identify two broad clusters of approaches: the "Gramscians," foregrounding the issues of hegemony, subalternity, and postcolonialism; and on the other hand, the "Tocquevillians," focusing on civil society, the public sphere, the ideological and institutional nature of political regimes, and citizenship. While scholars working in the Tocquevillian perspective have tended to focus on urban topics, those working in the Gramscian perspective have focused on indigenous and black populations and how their values, practices, and institutional traditions related to and interacted with those of elites. While the Tocquevillians tend to highlight the emancipatory aspects of political modernity, the Gramscians tend to highlight the manner in which subaltern groups suffered exclusion and repression through elite groups, especially during the period of nation-state formation. The concept of political culture can serve as neutral ground for practitioners of both approach clusters as it privileges issues important for each. This book brings together contributions from scholars on either side of this conceptual divide, and includes scholars trying to bridge that divide.

This book pursues three goals: First, to provide historical depth for current debates about transitions to and ongoing redefinitions of democracy in Latin America. Issues of democracy, authoritarianism, citizens' rights, and the exclusion or inclusion of people based on notions of "race," ethnicity, gender, and class have been at the forefront of political debates and social movements in the region since the waning days of the colonial regime some two hundred years ago. These struggles have profoundly imprinted the values and practices of diverse groups and have influenced many institutions at issue in today's debates.

Our second goal is to advance an understanding of the formation of Modern Andean political cultures through state-of-the-art case studies covering the two formative centuries of nation-state formation in the region. We reject the notion of one specifically Andean political culture. Our case studies from four Andean nations-Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia-demonstrate how even a focus on the same issue-for example, the deployment of race for the definition of citizenship-can have distinct meanings, depending on specific constellations of power and ethnic identity. The volume clarifies which issues have been prevalent in the construction of Andean nation-states.

Finally, we endeavor to exemplify the rich potential of a pragmatic political culture perspective for deciphering the processes involved in the formation, reconstruction, or dissolution of historical polities. The carefully crafted case studies, a comparativist conceptual essay, and the broad reflections in this introduction will help clarify the concept of political culture.

This volume cannot cover all major themes and issues of Andean political cultures between 1750 and 1950. Themes that do not receive the attention they deserve include electoral campaigns, working-class movements, popular religiosity, and the meaning of laws. Even so, the volume's broad chronological, spatial, and thematic coverage gives greater precision to the specificities of Andean political cultures within the comparative frame of Latin America. In this introduction we trace the history of the notion of political culture, discuss specific problems for the modern political culture perspective, and outline major issues of Andean political cultures on which scholars have focused to date.


The modern scholarly use of the term "political culture" first appears in an article published by Gabriel Almond in 1956. However, its subject matter has been debated at least since Plato and Aristotle sought to relate certain virtues or values to regime types. Among modern social scientists, Max Weber unquestionably has been most influential in preparing the later formal concept of political culture. He inserted culture (substantively) and meaning (methodologically) into the analysis of societies and greatly influenced the North American social scientists who pioneered the approach. Although for Weber most actions were prompted by material or ideal interests identifiable in terms of groups (class, religion, region, caste, ideology, etc.), he conceived them as molded and processed by customs, traditions, and values through which each individual derived meaning (Sinn). As Raymond Aron put it, for Weber "the contradiction between explanation by interests and the explanation by ideas is meaningless." In Weber's scheme of classifying action from a subjective perspective, goal-oriented rational pursuit of group interests was only one in a wide range of potential individual motives for action that also included hatred or friendship and custom or ritual. Moreover, Weber retained Hegel's distinction between civil society and the state. He emphasized that "the belief in a legitimate order differs in kind from the 'coalescence of material and ideal interests' in society." A state with claims of legitimacy on its subjects or citizens is not just "the executive committee of the bourgeoisie" or of any other dominant group. Its stable functioning needs explanation regarding its relation to society that goes beyond ascertaining interests. The conjuncture that gave rise to the concept of political culture occurred from World War II to 1960. The Nazi dictatorship and its modern politics of irrationality and genocide discredited both liberal and Marxist notions about the inevitability of achieving bourgeois-democratic or socialist societies in the "most advanced" nation-states. The breakup of the colonial empires and the foundation of new nations across Africa and Asia urgently raised the issue of whether democratic governance depended on more than economic development. One school of thought, at the intersection of psychology, anthropology, and political science, "sought to explain recruitment to political roles, aggression and warfare, authoritarianism, ethnocentrism, fascism and the like in terms of the socialization of children-infant nursing and toilet-training patterns, parental disciplinary patterns and family structure." Another literature-with a troubling heritage of geographic and racial determinism-attempted to establish distinct "national characters" through statistical definitions of "modal characters" showing a nation's pre-dominant value and behavior patterns based on methods of child rearing, family structures, and religious beliefs.

The initial political culture approach arose in close proximity to those literatures, yet "in reaction against ... [their] psychological and anthropological reductionism." One seminal study launched the first wave of political culture studies: The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, by Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba (1963). Worried about the threat of totalitarianism and the stability of the officially democratic political systems of West Germany, Italy, Japan, and the new nations of Africa and Asia, Almond and Verba sought to explore the characteristics of the political culture best suited to strengthening democratic regimes. The authors reacted also against the institutional and constitutional orientation then dominating the field of comparative politics. If democratic political systems were to take root in continental Europe, Africa, and Asia, more than a transfer of institutions was needed, because "a democratic form of participatory political system requires as well a political culture consistent with it."

The authors defined political culture as "specifically political orientations-attitudes towards the political system and its various parts, and attitudes toward the role of the self in the system." They developed behaviorist methods to test the relation between political attitudes and the political system as a whole. Based on Talcott Parsons's classification of action (cognitive, affective, evaluative) and Almond's own systems-theoretical approach, the authors designed a matrix scoring the attitudes of individuals to a variety of structural elements of political systems. Depending on how the interviewed citizens responded to elaborate questionnaires, a political culture could be classified as

parochial (political orientations not separated from religious and social orientations, little expectation of change initiated from political system; example: Ottoman Empire)

subject (frequent orientation toward differentiated political system and its "output aspects," but hardly any orientation to "input aspects," i.e., bottom-up demands on political system, and to self's active participation; example: imperial Germany)

participant (orientation toward input and output aspect of political system, and to activist role of self in the polity).

These were ideal types; contemporary political cultures usually would be mixtures of these types. Older-parochial or subject-orientations often were not fully relinquished as citizens adopted additional orientations. In fact, the authors saw the currently most adequate political culture for sustaining a democratic political system, the civic culture of the United States and the United Kingdom, as a "mixed culture, combining parochial, subject and participant orientations." This specific mix of orientations helped balance activity and passivity toward the political system allowing citizens to participate, but also to withdraw into quiet lives in the community. Yet, in other mixes, the ghosts of the past could produce regressive effects.

While Almond and Verba accepted diversity within political cultures through specific "subcultures" and "role cultures," these were subsumed within the aggregate political culture, without providing a force for change. On the critical issue as to whether this approach to political culture could explain why certain political systems were democratic and others not, all the authors would claim that it "demonstrating the probability of some connection between attitudinal patterns and systemic qualities." While their behavioral approach called for radical empirical verifiability or falsifiability, their systems-theoretical approach required correlations-or, in Weberian terminology, elective affinities-rather than logically and chronologically sequential cause-effect relations.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, this approach to political culture spawned numerous case studies and further theoretical elaborations among political scientists. But it soon ran into heavy opposition, and, by the 1980s, had gone out of fashion among political scientists. Almond himself blamed this development on "reductionisms of the left and the right," to wit, various types of Marxist analyses and rational choice theory. For these approaches, the study of attitudes and values could contribute little to explaining political structures and processes. Certainly the loss of a broader optimistic consensus around modernization theory undermined the appeal of the political culture approach during the 1970s. Yet, whatever the merits of Almond and Verba's model, it had serious flaws, partly rooted in the 1960s grand theory approach to political science, which entailed

an evolutionist, ahistorical tendency in the analysis of modernization a static model of cultural traits a behaviorist bent and reliance on quantitative data for determining subjective, cultural phenomena a bias toward one particular model of Western political culture an indeterminacy of cause and effect between political culture and political system

Although Almond and Verba, along with many of the comparative politics and societies theorists of the 1950s and 1960s, came out of the Weberian tradition, they bent that tradition in a certain direction. They weakened Weber's own intricate linkage between "explaining" (analysis) and "understanding" (interpretation), between historical contingency and social science modeling, between cultural and socioeconomic causation. By trying to turn the study of the subjective in politics into a "hard," empirical science, this approach to politics called forth reactions espousing entirely different methods and epistemologies.

Since the 1980s, political culture has become a prominent field of inquiry in history and anthropology. These disciplines were in the grip of powerful new or rejuvenated theories and epistemologies, which gave a different orientation to historical and anthropological studies of political culture. We shall name five of these new approaches:

the "linguistic turn" redefinitions of culture from a social science category to a humanities category, and, in a second step, from an essentially unified, substantive entity to a more fragmented and processual concept the critique of "Eurocentrism," associated, on the one hand, with studies of subalternity and postcolonialism, and, on the other, with a critique of the notions of progress and social evolution


Excerpted from POLITICAL CULTURES IN THE ANDES 1750-1950 Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

The long and the short of it : a pragmatic perspective on political cultures, especially for the modern history of the Andes 1
Is political culture good to think? 25
How interests and values seldom come alone, or : the utility of a pragmatic perspective on political culture 58
Pt. 1 State- and nation-building projects and their limitations 69
Civilize or control? : the lingering impact of the Bourbon urban reforms 74
A break with the past? : Santa Cruz and the Constitution 96
The tax man cometh : local authorities and the battle over taxes in Peru, 1885-1906 116
"Under the dominion of the Indian" : rural mobilization, the law, and revolutionary nationalism in Bolivia in the 1940s 137
Pt. 2 Ethnicity, gender, and the construction of power : exclusionary strategies and the struggle for citizenship 159
"Free men of all colors" in New Granada : identity and obedience before independence 165
Silencing African descent : Caribbean Colombia and early nation building, 1810-1828 184
The making of Ecuador's Pueblo Catolico, 1861-1875 207
Redeemed Indians, barbarized cholos : crafting neocolonial modernity in liberal Bolivia, 1900-1910 230
Pt. 3 The local, the peripheral, and the network : redefining the boundaries of popular representation in the public arena 253
Andean political imagination in the late eighteenth century 257
Public opinions and public spheres in late-nineteenth-century Peru : a multicolored Web in a tattered cloth 278
The local limitations to a national political movement : Gaitan and Gaitanismo in Antioquia 301
Concluding remarks : Andean inflections of Latin American political cultures 324
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