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Liberalism at Its Limits

Crime and Terror in the Latin American Cultural Text

Ileana Rodriguez

Publication Year: 2009

Ileana Rodríguez considers several Latin American nations that govern under the name of liberalism yet display a shocking range of nondemocratic features. In her political, cultural, and philosophical analysis, she examines these environments in which liberalism seems to have reached its limits, as the universalizing project gives way to rampant nonstate violence, gross inequality, and neocolonialism. Focusing on Guatemala, Colombia, and Mexico, Rodríguez shows how standard liberal models fail to account for new forms of violence and exploitation, which in fact follow from specific clashes between liberal ideology and local practice. Looking at these tensions within the ostensibly well-ordered state, Rodríguez exposes how the misunderstanding and misuse of liberal principles are behind realities of political turmoil, and questions whether liberalism is in fact an ideology sufficient to empower populations and transition nation-states into democratic roles in the global order. In this way, Liberalism at Its Limits offers a critical examination of the forced fitting of liberal models to Latin American nations and reasserts cross-cultural communication as crucial to grasping the true link between varying systems of value and politics.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas

Front Cover

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Contents, Acknowledgment

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pp. vii-ix

SPEAKERS of foreign tongues need help in conveying their ideas clearly in English. In this text, the English-language experts who walked side by side me were John Crider and Kathryn B. Auffinger. John edited chapters 2 through 6; Kathryn the rest of the manuscript.They proved to be excellent and incisive readers of texts. My whole heartfelt thanks to them. ...

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Introduction: Cross-Cultural Dialogues in a Global World

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pp. 1-5

ON THE MORNING of September 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed under the impact of two airplanes piloted by members of Al Qaeda, an Islamic organization. In disbelief, the whole world watched the images of these two planes that struck the U.S. security system at its real and symbolic financial heart in rapid succession—images that were transmitted relentlessly by CNN throughout that entire day and for days and years to ...

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Chapter 1: Cultures, Nations, Differences: The Paradoxical Fantasies of Liberalism as Democracy

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pp. 6-41

AT THE CLOSE of the twentieth century, the demise of socialism and the victory of capitalism as a one-world system drove the world into a deep conservative recoil.₁ The long march toward a utopian world came to a full stop, and the drift to globalization held sway apparently uncontested. Severely shaken by its untenable identification with socialist politics, Marxism lapsed from the ideology of liberation to just another classical German philosophy, ...

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Chapter 2: Western Texts, Indigenous Histories, Feminist Readings: The Struggle for Civil Rights within the Context of Liberalism

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pp. 42-67

WHEN I READ Menchú’s text Rigoberta: La nieta de los Mayas, I am puzzled by two things: one is her use of categories such as public sphere and civil society; the other is the mixing of these philosophical, liberal, and juridical categories with terms like millenarian cultures and creencias.1 How can an indigenous woman speak about public sphere and civil society when, I presume, these two ...

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Chapter 3: Indigenous Creencias, Millenarian Cultures, and Counterpublic Persuasion

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pp. 68-94

FEMINIST AND MULTICULTURAL texts inscribe the discussion of feminist and indigenous rights into an old and already occupied hermeneutical place. They write over the already-written script of public sphere and civil society, and by so doing feminism, at least, steps into the terrain of the prophetic. Richard Rorty’s reading of Catherine MacKinnon’s work illustrates this shift in ...

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Chapter 4: The Violent Text: Separating the Social and the Political

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pp. 95-114

I NOW MOVE FROM abstract liberal theories of the relationship between civil society and the state to the concrete workings of Colombian governance. This is a strategy to engage the propositions of social scientists in their efforts to come to terms with situations that bear little or no resemblance to the refined abstractions of liberalism, where the state represents the condensation of the relations of social forces, organizes the power bloc, and balances sectorial ...

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Chapter 5: Constituting Subaltern Subjectivities, Disclosing Acts of Violence

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pp. 115-152

SOCIAL SCIENTISTS succeeded in laying out the variables conditioning the structure of Colombian society, focusing on land and land-tenure patterns and highlighting the concept of the agrarian frontier to underscore the chaotic nature of the social and point to the inchoate form of the political. Invoking Fabio López de la Roche’s argument that the fundamentalist Christian view serves as the umbrella or atmosphere to this historical moment provides a brief ...

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Chapter 6: Feminicidio, or the Serial Killings of Women: Labor Shifts and Disempowered Subjects at the Border

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pp. 153-174

FEMINICIDIO IS THE TERM used to refer to the serial killing of women. Feminicidio in Ciudad Juárez (a Mexican border city opposite El Paso, Texas) is a daunting marker of the shift from modern to postmodern forms of labor. Some of the women killed are workers at the maquilas, one of the newest forms of labor organization that high-tech, corporate capitalism has devised. Given ...

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Chapter 7: The Perverse Heterosexual

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pp. 175-196

THE NUMBER OF articles, books, films, pictures, paintings, and theatrical productions concerning the women assassinated in Ciudad Juárez grows steadily.₁ This is due not only to the bemusing and menacing nature of this massive event that bewilders scholars but also to the intuition that it constitutes a symptom of overriding importance of events to come and constitutes one of the patterns of governmentality in the postmodern world. Without packing everything into ...

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Epilogue: Essentially Contested Concepts and Innocent Spaces

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pp. 197-206

IT IS IMPORTANT to acknowledge the contributions of Enrique Dussel, Iris Marion Young, and Achille Mbembe to the criticism of liberalism and modern reason. These three thinkers excavate the occult sites of Western philosophy, radically questioning their social integrity and viability and obstinately ...


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pp. 207-231

Index of Names

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pp. 233-235

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822973539
E-ISBN-10: 0822973537
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822960195
Print-ISBN-10: 0822960192

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas