State Infrastructural Power and Nationalism: Comparative Lessons from Mexico and Argentina

Abstract

This article focuses on the nexus between state infrastructural power and legitimacy. A comparative case study of nationalism in mid-twentieth-century Mexico and Argentina provides the basis for theorizing the impact of state infrastructural power on transformations of official understandings of nationhood. Both countries experienced a transition from liberal to popular nationalism. The extent to which popular nationalism became a regular product of state organizations varied between the two cases, depending on the timing of state development. The temporal congruence between the expansion of state infrastructural power and ideological change, as exemplified by Mexico under Cárdenas, facilitated the full institutionalization of the new official ideology, whereas a disjuncture between state development and ideological change, as exemplified by Argentina under Perón, inhibited such a comprehensive transformation of nationalism.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    See Rueschemeyer (1983, chap. 4) for a more general perspective on the relationship between legitimacy and formal organization.

  2. 2.

    This point does not neglect that nationalism is equally important to contest state power. Yet the role of social movements in constructing national narratives and fashioning ideological transformations is beyond the scope of this article. See Itzigsohn and vom Hau (2006) for a theoretical and empirical treatment of this issue.

  3. 3.

    National discourses are hegemonic if they inform everyday understandings of the world. Defined that way, hegemony does not mean the consent of the governed, but refers to the presence of these discourses as “banal” reference points in daily life (Billig 1995; Gramsci 1971).

  4. 4.

    This approach owes much to Eugen Weber’s (1976) study of nineteen-century France that carefully disentangles the role of schooling in the “nationalization” of the rural population.

  5. 5.

    In this larger project, I use textbooks because public schools are arguably the major nationalizing institution of the state during the twentieth century. State authorities put major efforts into regulating the content of these texts, for instance, through special approval commissions. The textbook analysis starts with the implementation of obligatory public schooling during the late nineteenth century, a period that witnessed the prevalence of liberal nationalism, and ends with the comprehensive (or contained) institutionalization of popular nationalism. This study traces trajectories of nationalism as state ideology over substantial periods, from 1884 to 1955 in Argentina, and from 1888 to 1960 in Mexico. In each country, the study reviewed between 50 and 70 textbooks for these periods, collecting at least five publications each decade.

  6. 6.

    For exploring teachers’ role in this process, I focused on the activities and outlooks of primary school teachers during the main transformative periods: the transitions toward popular nationalism under Cárdenas in Mexico (1934–1940) and Perón in Argentina (1946–1955).

  7. 7.

    This definition provides a basis for distinguishing between nationalism and other forms of discourse involved in the legitimation of state power. For instance, agrarianism is distinct from nationalism because it evokes an imagined community of peasants rather than nationals.

  8. 8.

    This is not to neglect other possible avenues of conceptualizing state infrastructural power and its role in ideological change (see Soifer, this issue). Yet, taking a weight of the state approach runs into the danger of conflating explanans and explanandum as transformations of nationalism are the very outcome of interest. A subnational variation approach would be more suitable to investigate a different research question, such as local differences and similarities in the extent of ideological change in Mexico or Argentina.

  9. 9.

    This latter trajectory is not explored empirically here, yet it constitutes a logical possibility.

  10. 10.

    In Argentina, this economic bonanza was accompanied by the equally dramatic demographic reorganization of society based on massive European migration.

  11. 11.

    An exception to this trend can be found in the visual arts. Under Vasconcelos, the SEP provided many artists with generous financial and organizational resources to pursue their work, exemplified by Diego Rivera’s status as “official painter” (Azuela 2001: 67).

  12. 12.

    In 1922, around 8.9% of the federal budget was spent on education, in 1928 it were 8.0% (Vaughan 1982: 149).

  13. 13.

    The number of primary schools decreased from 12,271 in 1907 to 9,222 in 1920, and reached 16,692 in 1928 (Vaughan 1982: 153).

  14. 14.

    This section draws on interviews with teachers from the Archivo de la Palabra and periodicals from independent teacher associations, combined with relevant with secondary literature (vom Hau 2007).

  15. 15.

    Public secondary school teacher (history), Mexico City, March 6, 1979

  16. 16.

    Public primary school teacher, Villahermosa, May 3, 1979

  17. 17.

    Public secondary school teacher (history), Mexico City, March 6, 1979

  18. 18.

    To reconstruct the activities and outlooks of public school teachers under Perón, I combined semi-structured interviews with a textual analysis of La Obra as a periodical written by teachers for teachers (vom Hau 2007).

  19. 19.

    La Obra, No. 486, October 15, 1949, p. 58x

  20. 20.

    Public primary school teacher, Buenos Aires, August 11, 2004

  21. 21.

    Secondary school teacher (history), Buenos Aires, August 25, 2004

  22. 22.

    Accounts from secondary literature provide additional support for these findings and paint a similar picture of teacher opposition against Perón and popular nationalism (e.g., Cucuzza and Somoza 2001; Plotkin 2002), and the grounding of the resistance in their professional identity and middle class status (Bernetti and Puiggrós 1993).

References

  1. Alabarces P. Fútbol y patria: El fútbol y las narrativas de la nación en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Prometeo; 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Azuela A. Arte y Poder: La Revolución pictórica de la revolución mexicana y su influencia en la construcción de una imagen. Ph.D. Thesis, El Colegio de Michoacán. Zamora: Michoacán; 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Berezin M. The organization of political ideology: culture, state, and theater in Fascist Italy. Am Sociol Rev 1991;56:639–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bernetti JL, Puiggrós A. Peronismo: cultura política y educación (1945–1955). Buenos Aires: Galerna; 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bertoni LA. Patriotas, cosmopolitas y nacionalistas: La construcción de la nacionalidad Argentina a fines del siglo XIX. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica; 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Billig M. Banal nationalism. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Botana NR. El orden conservador: La política Argentina entre 1880 y 1916. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana; 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Brubaker R, Feischmidt M, Fox J, Grancea L. Nationalist politics and everyday ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Calhoun C. Nationalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Centeno MA. Blood and debt: war and the Nation-State in Latin America. University Park, PA.: Pennsylvania State University Press; 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Collier D, Collier RB. Shaping the political arena. Critical junctures, the labor movement, and regime dynamics in Latin America. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 1991.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Cucuzza H, Somoza M. Representaciones sociales en los libros escolares peronistas: una pedagogía para una nueva hegemonía. In: Ossenbach G, Somoza M, editors. Los manuales escolares como fuente para la historia de la educación en América Latina. Madrid: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia; 2001. p. 209–58.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Eisenstadt SN. The construction of collective identities in Latin America: beyond the European Nation State Model. In: Roniger L, Snajder M, editors. Constructing collective identities and shaping public spheres. Brighton: Sussex Academic; 1998. p. 245–63.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Ertman T. Birth of the Leviathan: building states and regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Escudé C. El fracaso del proyecto Argentino: Educación e ideología. Buenos Aires: Tesis; 1990.

  16. Gandulfo A. La expansión del sistema escolar Argentino: Informe estadístico. In: Puiggrós A, editor. Sociedad civil y Estado en los orígenes del sistema educativo Argentino. Buenos Aires: Galerna; 1991. p. 309–61.

    Google Scholar 

  17. García Riera E. Breve historia del cine Mexicano, 1897–1997. Mexico City: Ediciones Mapa and Conaculta; 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gellner E. Nations and nationalism. London: Oxford University Press; 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Gorski PS. The disciplinary revolution: Calvinism and the rise of the state in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: Chicago University Press; 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Gramsci A. Selections from the prison notebooks, 1929–35. In: Hoare Q, Nowell-Smith G, editors. New York: International; 1971.

  21. Halperín Donghi T. The contemporary history of Latin America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hamilton N. The limits of state autonomy: post-revolutionary Mexico. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press; 1982.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Hayes JE. Radio nation: communication, popular culture, and nationalism in Mexico, 1920–1950. Tucson: University of Arizona Press; 2000.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Horowitz J. Argentine unions, the state and the rise of Perón. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California; 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Itzigsohn J, vom Hau M. Unfinished imagined communities: states, social movements, and nationalism in Latin America. Theory Soc 2006;29:193–212. April.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Jacoby T. Method, narrative and historiography in Michael Mann’s sociology of state development. Sociol Rev 2004;52:404–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Knight A. The peculiarities of Mexican History: Mexico compared to Latin America, 1821–1992. J Lat Am Stud Quincentenary 1992;24:99–144.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Knight A. Popular culture and the revolutionary state in Mexico, 1910–1940. Hisp Am Hist Rev 1994;74:393–444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Knight A. The weight of the state in Modern Mexico. In: Dunkerley J, editor. Studies in the formation of the Nation-State in Latin America. London: Institute of Latin American Studies; 2002. p. 212–53.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Lieberman ES. Race and regionalism in the politics of taxation in Brazil and South Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Loveman M. The modern state and the primitive accumulation of symbolic power. Am J Sociol 2005;110:1651–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Loyo E. Gobiernos revolucionarios y educación popular en México, 1911–1928. Mexico City: Colegio de México; 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Mahoney J, Rueschemeyer D (eds). Comparative historical analysis in the social sciences. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2003.

  34. Mann M. The autonomous power of the state: its origins, mechanisms and results. Arch Eur Sociol 1984;25:185–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Mann M. The sources of social power. Volume 2: The rise of classes and nation states 1760–1914. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Mejía Barquera F. La industria de la radio y la televisión y la política del estado Mexicano, 1920–1960. Mexico City: Fundación Manuel Buendía; 1989.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Meyer L. La etapa formativa del Estado Mexicano contemporaneo (1928–1940). Foro Int 1977;17:453–76.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Meyer L. La institucionalización del nuevo régimen. In: Centro de Estudios Históricos, editor. Historia general de México. Mexico City: Colegio de México; 2000. p. 823–80.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Oszlak O. La formación del estado Argentino. Buenos Aires: Editorial de Belgrano; 1982.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Pérez Montfort R. Estampas del nacionalismo popular Mexicano. Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS); 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Pierson P. Politics in time: history, institutions, and social analysis. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2004.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Plotkin M. Mañana es San Perón: a cultural history of Peron’s Argentina. Wilmington: Scholarly; 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Puiggrós A. La educación Argentina desde la reforma Saavedra-Lamas hasta el fin de la década infame. Hipótesis para la discusión. In: Puiggrós A, editor. Escuela, democracia y orden (1916–1943). Buenos Aires: Galerna; 1992.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Raby DL. Ideología y construcción del estado: la función política de la educación rural en México, 1921–1935. Rev Mex Sociol 1989;51:305–20.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Rivera Castro J. En la presidencia de Plutarco Elías Calles, 1924–1928. Vol. 8 of La clase obrera en la historia de México. Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno; 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Rock D. Argentina, 1516–1982: from Spanish colonization to the Falklands war. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1987.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Rock D. State building and political movements in Argentina, 1860–1916. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Romero LA. Breve historia contemporánea de la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica; 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Rueschemeyer D. Lawyers and their society: a comparative study of the legal profession in Germany and in the United States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1973.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Rueschemeyer D. Power and the division of labour. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Saítta S. Entre la cultura y la política: los escritores de izquierda. In: Cattaruzza A, editor. Crisis económica, avance del Estado e incertidumbre política (1930–1943). Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana; 2001. p. 383–428.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Secretaría de Estado de Cultura y Educación. Suplemento estadístico: Enseñanza primaria, años 1940–1964. Buenos Aires; 1966.

  53. Sigal S. Intelectuales y peronismo. In: Torre JC, editors. Los años peronistas. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana; 2002. p. 481–522.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Skocpol T. States and social revolutions: a comparative analysis of France, Russia, and China. New York: Cambridge University Press; 1979.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Smith A. National identity. Reno: University of Nevada Press; 1991.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Spalding H. Education in Argentina, 1890–1914: the limits of oligarchical reform. J Interdiscip Hist 1972;3:31–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Torre JC. La vieja guardia sindical y Perón. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana; 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Vaughan MK. The state, education, and social class in Mexico, 1880–1928. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press; 1982.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Vaughan MK. Cultural politics in revolution: teachers, peasants, and schools in Mexico, 1930–1940. Tucson: University of Arizona Press; 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  60. vom Hau M. Contested inclusion: a comparative study of nationalism in Mexico, Argentina, and Peru. Ph.D. Thesis, Brown University, Department of Sociology; 2007.

  61. Weber E. Peasants into Frenchmen: the modernization of rural France, 1870–1914. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; 1976.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Wilkie JW. The Mexican revolution: federal expenditure and social change since 1910. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1970.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Wuthnow R. Communities of discourse. Ideology and social structure in the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and European socialism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 1989.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matthias vom Hau.

Additional information

This research was supported by an IDRF fellowship from the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). A previous version was presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Chicago. I would like to thank Matthew Lange, Daniel Schensul, Dan Slater, and Daniel Ziblatt for helpful comments. I also greatly benefited from the continued intellectual exchange with Hillel Soifer.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

vom Hau, M. State Infrastructural Power and Nationalism: Comparative Lessons from Mexico and Argentina. St Comp Int Dev 43, 334 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12116-008-9024-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Argentina
  • Infrastructural power
  • Mexico
  • Nationalism
  • Latin America
  • Legitimacy