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Marxist thought in Latin America

DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-ZA013-1
DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-ZA013-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved October 18, 2018, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/marxist-thought-in-latin-america/v-1

Article Summary

Marxism is a theory offering a critique of capitalist political economy. Marxism also views itself as an instrument or means of changing the world from a capitalist to a socialist (and/or communist), economic and political order. Given its interest in economic and political change, Marxism involves a philosophy of history which depicts the possibility of and conditions for change from a capitalist to a socialist order. Marxist intellectuals perform the dual task of analysing the failures or limitations of capitalist economic and political structures. The theory also proposes and evaluates socialist alternatives.

Latin American Marxism developed out of its own historical, economic, political and cultural conditions. Influenced by Lenin’s analysis of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism, it directed the critique of capitalist political economy towards the capitalist world market and its disadvantageous effects for the countries, particularly the impoverished classes and social sectors, of the Latin American and Caribbean regions. Latin American Marxism-Leninism argues, on political and economic grounds, that national liberation cannot be achieved without liberation from imperialism.

Marxists believe that although the protagonists of history’s political projects are the workers (or if Leninist, the workers together with the peasants), in the end the interests of these groups represent the universal interests of humankind. Marxist political discourse often uses broader categories than those of ’workers’ or ’peasants’ to designate the agents of political emancipation, employing terms such as ’the people’, ’the popular sectors’ or ’the revolutionary masses’. In this way Marxism attempts to broaden its political base so as to make its goals more effective. The political discourse of the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and the Nicaraguan Sandinista Revolution of 1979 exemplify this practice.

There are and have been many differences among Marxists because of the different approaches to criticizing capitalism as well as the different conceptions held by those who profess a commitment to the ultimate Marxist goal of creating a nonexploitative socialist society. Representative issues in Latin American Marxism may be illustrated by focusing on three questions: the problem of orthodoxy, the socialist construction of a national identity and socialism’s relation to ethics, religion and culture. In addressing these issues, this entry draws significantly from the work of Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui, a prominent founder of Latin American Marxism.

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Citing this article:
Schutte, Ofelia. Marxist thought in Latin America, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-ZA013-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/marxist-thought-in-latin-america/v-1.
Copyright © 1998-2018 Routledge.

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