Week 7: The Export Boom as Modernity


Modernity can be defined as the belief in the universal freedom and rationality of humanity, and is often posed as the conduit for teleological progress. I think the integration of modernity depends on a lot of factors. One of these is topographical. For example, as Dawson states: “Latin Americans lacked the resources needed to build railroads but needed them to unleash the region’s economic potential” (114).

I think these factors have a lot to do with the societies’ “dominant,” “residual,” or “emergent” elements. One residual factor of Latin American countries could be the indigenous population, who’ve often come to the ire of the Latin American governments, which can be seen as more of a dominant structure. Naturally, many indigenous people’s way of life, such as the Huaorani, runs in contradiction to principles of modernity and may even hinder profits for the government. Whereas modernity has led to contemporary capitalism, democracy, and exploitation of nature, indigenous people such as the Huaorani or Barasana have a much different worldview that stands in opposition to these tenets, therefore stifling the process of complete accepting all that modernism entails.

The troubles with modernity in Latin America are several. As was noted in the lecture, there isn’t really a single model of modernity. Wherever modern foundations and practices have occurred they’ve also changed, and through time this has resulted in several forms of modernity found in the world. Western modernity might be adopted by elites in Latin America because of the benefits it offers. However, the Western paradigm for what a modern society should look like isn’t then simply diffused into Latin America; instead it has to encounter already established societal features, and through this amalgamation, lead to an unique proliferation of modernity. This is even true of the indigenous in Peru, for example, where Pre-Colombian beliefs and 500 years of Catholic belief combined for carrying crosses up the apu (mountains) (I can’t seem to find the specific name of this ritual).

Europe itself developed modernity from its discovery of the Americas, whereby the continent’s confounding inhabitants provoked intellectual movements in Europe that redefined humanity and nature (as seen by thinkers like Descartes and Locke). The fact remains, however, that the Western societies’ brand of modernity is very much the result of the preconditions of the West; for a diverse region like Latin America with a wide variety of cosmologies and divergent historical experience, imposing foreign principles will certainly conflict with existing “institutional arrangements”.

My question is, given that there are several versions of modernity, how does this affect the idea of progress/the hope that the world will become better in the future?

2 thoughts on “Week 7: The Export Boom as Modernity

  1. Emilia

    I think the Western idea of modernity (which I believe to be capitalism) is currently the most dominant one, and it sort of overrules the other versions of modernity. I also believe that the Western idea of modernity isn’t sustainable and won’t in its current form bring about a better future. Therefore, I believe that other narratives of future and modernity are very welcome if we desire to stay alive on this planet, since mass consumption and ever expanding economy are physically impossible.

  2. Mirella

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the blog post! I agree with Emilia when she commented on how if we want to survive we will need to look at different models of modernity that are not dependent on mass consumption and degrading the environment. In addition, when thinking about hope for a better future I think about how nations are connected and how if there is an issue having in one place, like the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S., people from all over the world can help the movement and also demand change.


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