ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Latin American Marxist Perspectives

José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology edited and translated by Harry E Vanden and Marc Becker (Kharagpur: Cornerstone Publications), 2013; pp 320, Rs 200.

The name of the author of the essays brought together in this book will surely sound unfamiliar to the addicts of the western European ideologues like Derrida, Foucault and Lacan in today’s academic world. But in the 1920s, José Carlos Mariátegui created a space for himself in the political and intellectual sphere of Latin America by dint of his original contribution to the ideological debates, and participation in politics in his home country Peru.

He was born in a small town in Peru in 1894, and lived till 1930. But within that brief span of a little over 30 years, he not only creatively applied Marxism in the context of Latin America’s political reality, but also illuminated the contemporary discourse among Marxist and progressive circles with his sparkling observations on burning issues like the position of indigenous people in Latin America in the broader political strategy of socialist revolution; the rise of fascism and the appeal of Mussolini among intellectuals; the emancipation of women in Soviet Russia and the development of feminist politics in Peru. At the same time, he expanded his vision towards wider philosophical questions like the relationship between aesthetics and revolution, and between the collective tradition of belief in myth and the modern man’s need for a new myth that, he believed, could be shaped by the inspiration for a socialist revolution. Most importantly, Mariátegui broke away from the orthodox Marxist stress on economic factors alone and examined the more complex subjective factors that motivated people in the pre-industrial traditional societies of the third world. In this respect, he often collided with the analysis made by the contemporary Soviet-led official international Communist leadership.

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