- Studies in the Formation of the Nation-State in Latin America
This volume originated at a conference at the Institute of Latin American Studies of the University of London in June 1999. It is a variegated bouquet of essays; the authors have chosen diverse themes relating to the development of the nation-state and have approached their tasks in dissimilar ways. Most of the essays focus on the nineteenth century, although some extend into the twentieth. The first essay, by Florencia Mallon, provides a useful discussion of some issues, abundantly citing relevant works on the formation of the nation-state in Mexico, Peru, and Chile, with particular emphasis on the roles of indigenous subalterns. Paul Gootenberg offers a synthetic summary of much of his work on nineteenth-century Peru, both that on the early period of caudillistic regional conflict (1821-45) and his later study of elite developmentalist dreams and projects after 1845. These essays have the advantage of offering students relatively brief introductions to their perspectives. Seemin Qayum's essay on Bolivia, taken from her University of London dissertation, also addresses elite projects. But, bearing in mind their impact on the indigenous population, it characterizes them more negatively. Qayum describes Bolivian elites as engaging in a project of internal colonialism, with Bolivia's National Geographic Society (1904 ) as a salient expression of that project. The elite project included railway construction but was directed more generally at the appropriation of indigenous land. Qayum concludes that Bolivian elites failed to consolidate a nation-state, in part because of indigenous resistance and in part because of "structural economic factors relating to Bolivia's position in the world market" (p. 298 ). Colin Lewis contributes an informative discussion of railway construction and monetary reform as integrative factors in post-1852 Argentina. Fernando López-Alves, focusing on the 1890-1930 period, treats the institution of Uruguay's welfare system as a means of consolidating the state; he sees the welfare system as having been patterned, to some degree, on earlier military pensions.
Miguel Centeno asks a central question: if war led to the construction of nation-states in Europe, why did nineteenth-century wars in Latin America not stimulate the development of strong states? He correctly notes that lack of economic integration (particularly before 1900 ) represents a fundamental obstacle to state formation. He also appropriately points out that many civil wars in Latin America were not about territory but rather about competing claims to central power. However, as the literature on war as stimulus to state-building in Europe stresses its role as an impetus to revenue collection, it is surprising that Centeno does not discuss the revenue consequences of the partisan civil wars of nineteenth-century Latin America. (Civil wars undermined the state's fiscal resources, while forced loans undermined respect for the state.) Centeno's speculation on the reasons why war failed to strengthen Latin American states in the nineteenth century [End Page 517] is accompanied by Malcolm Deas's informative discussion of military recruitment as a "blood tax." Deas refrains from drawing explicit conclusions about the significance of this phenomenon for the construction, strengthening, or weakening of the state.
Among the more interesting essays is Guy Thomson's revealing comparison of differing modes in primary education, desamortización, liberal constitutionalism, church-state relations, and the manipulation of patriotic symbols in the construction of the nation-state in nineteenth-century Mexico and Spain. And Steven Topik offers a vigorous essay arguing (against interpretations that emphasize the relative effectiveness of the central state in nineteenth-century Brazil) that the empire was in reality a "hollow state." Externally—to European states, financiers, and merchants—the Brazilian empire appeared a functioning state. But, Topik contends, internally it had little operative reach into the provinces. David McCreery's first-rate essay on "State and Society in Nineteenth-Century Goiás" supports Topik's contention. However, studies of São Paulo or Minas would provide a more conclusive test of Topik's vision than...