Week Five

This week’s lecture and readings were very interesting to dive into. What really drew me in was this larger idea that liberalism never had room to grow in Latin America amongst all of the violence that was going on at the time.

Liberalism in today’s society, more specifically in North America, is much more common than it used to be, however I agree with the fact that overall, liberalist societies tend to fail. I think liberalism can, and definitely should exist in the world, but I unfortunately think it’s extremely difficult for a country to maintain liberalistic practices for an extended period of time, especially when politics and people’s opinions are taken into consideration. I don’t think it’s possible to convince an entire population to join together and make a commitment to so called “abstract” principles because of precisely that: liberalistic principles can be seen as abstract. With all of the chaos going on in these Latin American countries in the 1800’s, it makes sense that they weren’t necessarily able to hop onto this progressive bandwagon.

Clientalism and Caudillaje was also a very interesting concept for me. Post-Independence Latin America was the perfect planting ground for an arrangement like Caudillos. It provided a clear-cut system for the everyone which was probably comforting for the poor and powerless. Not only was it was intriguing to think that a client’s wellbeing was in the hands of such powerful patrons, but that the elements of the relationship mattered; you couldn’t simply know of your superior, you had to genuinely know them… Of course, this system allowed the poor to have preferential services, protection and maybe even exemption from unequal rules which were all pros for the clients. I think it’s because of this that the system was so popular amongst them. In the lecture it’s mentioned somewhere that clientelism rewards were concrete and immediate, so that’s an additional reason as to why the powerless thought highly of this dependable system. Caudillaje seems to have been a dependable manipulation by the patrons that kept everyone relatively content and in their “rightful” place.

Esteban Echeverria strongly opposed caudillos and so it was captivating to learn about his opinions on it. In his book “The Slaughterhouse,” his descriptions are extremely graphic.

If the Spanish, Portuguese and other countries had had control of Latin America for longer, would liberalism be more prevalent in Latin America today?


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