Capitalism and Political Subjectivity in Latin America


The course will interrogate the relationship between the dynamics of capitalist subsumption and the logic of political subjectivation among Latin American social thinkers of the 1960s and 70s.

The crisis of Marxist theory and the failure of the national popular state projects of the early and mid-twentieth century marked the social and political thought of the 1960s and 70s in Latin America. Together with the event of the Cuban Revolution, such crises gave rise to a wave of Marxist theory that attempted to capture the specificity of capitalist development in Latin America against both orthodox, linear views of history and against proponents of modernization theory who assumed the irreducibility of Latin American political economies to the logic or historical articulation of capitalism on a global scale. This period gave way to important reflections on the nature of psychic, social and political emancipation among Marxist thinkers who brushed against the grain of both economism and culturalism. Concurrent with and in many ways truncated by the spectacular rise and fall of militant leftist movements in many parts of the continent, the works surveyed attempt to understand the historical specificities of and relationship between capitalist modernization, mass politics and the subject in determinate national and regional contexts. The course proposes three units of study dedicated to debates and theoretical trajectories concerning (1) the definition and historical analysis of pre-capitalist modes of production and the logic of their transition; (2) hegemony theory; and (3) ethical approaches to mass politics through and beyond the form of the party.  Through such readings, the course pretends to interrogate the relationship between political subjectivation and historical transition in the mode of production. We will ask how new political subjects are constituted and to what extent and by what logic we can understand the historical determination of such processes. In addition to defining the terms of our own analysis, readings and class discussions will address questions such as the circulation and reception of Marxism in Latin America; the relationship between nation, class and state; populism and the national-popular; race and indigeneity; and subjection and subjectivation. Authors will include Marx, Lenin, Bartra, Aricó, Laclau, Rozitchner, Dussel and Negri, among others. The course is open to graduate students and upper-level undergraduates with permission from the instructor. Class discussions will be conducted in English or Spanish, depending on registration.

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Graduate standing or special permission from the instructor.