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  1. 1. The Social Sciences, Epistemic Violence, and the Problem of the “Invention of the Other” Santiago Castro-Gómez During the last two decades of the twentieth century, postmodern philosophy and cultural studies developed into important theoretical currents that impelled a strong critique, inside and outside the academy, of the pathologies of Westernization. Their many differences notwithstanding, both currents attribute these pathologies to the exclusive, dualist character that modern power relations assume. Modernity is an alterity-generating machine that, in the name of reason and humanism, excludes from its imaginary the hybridity, multiplicity, ambiguity, and contingency of different forms of life. The current crisis of modernity is seen by postmodern philosophy and cultural studies as a historic opportunity for these long-repressed differences to emerge. I hope to show here that the proclaimed “end” of modernity clearly implies the crisis of a power mechanism that constructs the “other” by means of a binary logic that represses difference. I also argue that this crisis does not imply the weakening of the global structure within which this mechanism operates. What I will refer to here as the “end of modernity” is merely the crisis of a historical configuration of power in the framework of the capitalist world-system, which nevertheless has taken on other forms in times of globalization, without this implying the disappearance of that world-system. I argue that the present global reorganization of the capitalist economy depends on the production of differences. As a result, the celebratory affirmation of these differences, far from subverting the system, could be contributing to its consolidation. I defend the claim that the challenge now facing a critical theory of society is precisely to reveal what the crisis N e p a n t l a : V i e w s f r o m S o u t h 3.2 Copyright 2002 by Duke University Press 269
  2. 2. 270 Nepantla of the modern project consists of and to indicate the new configurations of global power in what Jean-François Lyotard has called the “postmodern condition.” My strategy is first to interrogate the significance of what Jürgen Habermas has called the “project of modernity,” seeking to demonstrate the origins of two closely linked social phenomena: the formation of nation-states and the consolidation of colonialism. Here I emphasize the role played by techno-scientific knowledge, particularly knowledge that emerges from the social sciences, in the consolidation of these phenomena. Later I show that the “end of modernity” cannot be understood as the result of an explosion of normative frameworks in which this project taxonomically operated, but, rather, as a new configuration of global power relations that is based on the production of differences instead of on their repression. I conclude with a brief reflection on the role of a critical theory of society in times of globalization. The Project of Governmentability What do we mean when we speak of the “project of modernity”? Primarily and generally, we refer to the Faustian drive to submit the entire world to the absolute control of man under the steady guide of knowledge. The German philosopher Hans Blumenberg (1973, pt. 2) has shown that, at a conceptual level, this project required humanity’s elevation to the rank of principal organizer of all things. To attain this power, mankind must fight a war, one it will win only by knowing the enemy profoundly, deciphering its most intimate secrets, so that its own tools may be used to make it submit to human will. This is precisely the role of techno-scientific reason with respect to nature. Ontological insecurity can only be eliminated insofar as we increase our mechanisms of control over the magical or mysterious forces of nature, especially over those aspects of it that cannot be reduced to calculability. In this sense, Max Weber speaks of the rationalization of the West as the process of “disenchanting” the world. When we speak of modernity as a “project,” we are also principally referring to the existence of a central instance from which the mechanisms of control over the natural and social world are distributed and coordinated. This primary instance is the state, guarantor of the rational organization of human life. In this context, “rational organization” means that the processes of disenchantment and demagicalization of the world to which Weber and Blumenberg refer have begun to be regulated by the state’s guiding hand. The state is understood as the sphere in which all societal interests reach
  3. 3. 271 Castro-Gómez . The “Invention of the Other” a point of “synthesis,” that is, the locus which formulates collective goals valid for everyone. This requires the application of “rational criteria” that permit the state to channel the desires, interests, and emotions of citizens toward its own goals. The modern state thus not only acquires a monopoly on violence, but also uses it to rationally “direct” the activities of its citizens in accordance with previously established scientific criteria. The U.S. sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein (1991) has shown how the social sciences became a fundamental part of this project of organization and control over human life. The birth of the social sciences was not an additive phenomenon to the framework of political organization defined by the nation-state, it was constitutive of that framework. In order to govern the social world, one first had to generate a platform from which it could be scientifically observed.1 Without the aid of the social sciences, the modern state would not be in a position to exercise control over people’s lives, define long- and short-term collective goals, or construct and assign to its citizens a cultural “identity.”2 The restructuring of the economy according to the new demands of international capitalism, the redefinition of political legitimacy, and even the identification of the specific character and values of each nation all required a scientifically endorsed representation of how social reality “functioned.” Governmental programs could only be realized and executed on the basis of this information. The taxonomies elaborated by the social sciences were thus not limited to the development of an abstract system of rules called “science”— as the founding fathers of sociology ideologically believed. Instead, these taxonomies had practical consequences, for they legitimized the regulative politics of the state. The practical matrix that led to the rise of the social sciences was the need to “adjust” human life to the apparatus of production. The social sciences teach us which “laws” govern economy, society, politics, and history. For its own part, the state defines its governmental politics on the basis of this scientifically legitimized normativity. Now, this attempt to establish profiles of subjectivity coordinated by the state entails a phenomenon that I call here the “invention of the other.” By “invention,” I do not mean simply the way in which a certain group of people abstractly represents itself to others; rather, I refer to the mechanisms of power/knowledge from which those representations are constructed. The problem of the “other” must be approached theoretically not so much as the “concealment” of a preexisting cultural identity as from a perspective that takes into account the process of material and symbolic production that modern societies have been involved in since the beginning
  4. 4. 272 Nepantla of the sixteenth century.3 I would like to illustrate this point by turning to the work of the Venezuelan thinker Beatriz González Stephan, who has studied the disciplinary mechanisms of power in the context of nineteenthcentury Latin America and the ways in which these constructions made possible the “invention of the other.” González Stephan identifies three disciplinary practices that helped shape Latin American citizenship in the nineteenth century: constitutions, manuals of etiquette [urbanidad], and grammar manuals. Following the Uruguayan theorist Angel Rama, González Stephan observes that these technologies of subjectification had a common denominator: their legitimacy lay in writing. In the nineteenth century, writing was an exercise that met the need to organize and institute the logic of “civilization.” It anticipated the modernizing dream of the Creole elites. The written word constructed laws and national identities, designed modernizing programs, and organized the understanding of the world in terms of inclusion and exclusion. For this reason, nations’ foundational projects were carried out by creating institutions legitimized by writing (schools, hospices, workshops, prisons) and hegemonic discourses (maps, grammars, constitutions, manuals, treatises on hygiene) that regulated public conduct. These institutions and texts established boundaries between people and assured them that they existed either inside or outside of the limits defined by written legality (González Stephan 1996). The formation of the citizen as a “subject of law” is only possible within the limits of the disciplinary structure and, in this case, within the space of legality defined by the constitution. The juridico-political function of constitutions is precisely to invent citizenship, in other words, to create a field of homogenous identities that make the modern project of governmentability viable. For example, the Venezuelan constitution of 1839 declares that the only people eligible for citizenship are married males who are older than twenty-five, literate, own property, and practice a profession earning them no less than four hundred pesos a year (ibid., 32). The acquisition of citizenship is thus a sieve through which only those subjects who fit the profile required for the project of modernity may pass: ones who are male, white, head of household, Catholic, landowner, literate, and heterosexual. Those who do not meet these requirements (women, servants, the insane, the illiterate, blacks, heretics, slaves, Indians, homosexuals, dissidents) are excluded from the “lettered city,” sealed off in a field of illegality, and subject to punishment and therapy by the same laws that exclude them.
  5. 5. 273 Castro-Gómez . The “Invention of the Other” But if the constitution formally defines a desirable type of modern subjectivity, pedagogy is the great artisan of its materialization. Schools become a space of enclosure that forms the type of subject called for by the constitution’s “regulative ideals.” The purpose is to impose a discipline on the mind and body that enables people to be “useful to the fatherland.” Children’s behavior must be regulated and monitored, compelling them to acquire knowledge, abilities, habits, values, cultural models, and lifestyles that will allow them to assume a “productive” role in society. González Stephan does not direct her attention to the school as an “institution of seclusion,” however, but rather toward the disciplinary function of certain pedagogical technologies such as manuals of etiquette, especially the famous one published by Manuel Antonio Carreño (1854). The manual operates within the field of authority laid out by the book, with the purpose of ordering the subordination of human instinct, the control over the body, and the domestication of any kind of sensibility considered “barbaric” (González Stephan 1995). No manuals were written on how to be a good peasant, a good Indian, a good black person, or a good gaucho, since all of these human types were seen as barbaric. Instead, manuals were written on how to be a “good citizen” so as to become part of the civitas, the legal space inhabited by the epistemological, moral, and aesthetic subjects that modernity requires. For this reason, the Carreño manual warns that “without the observation of these rules, more or less perfect according to the degree of civilization in each country[,] . . . there will be no way to cultivate sociability, which is the principle of communities’ conservation and progress and of all well-ordered societies’ existence” (quoted in ibid., 436; González Stephan’s emphasis). The manuals of etiquette became a new bible that would teach citizens proper behavior in the most diverse situations of life, for each person’s degree of success in the civitas terrena, or the material reign of civilization, depended on his or her faithful obedience of norms. “Entrance” into the banquet of modernity required compliance with the normative prescription that distinguished members of the new Latin American urban class that began to emerge during the second half of the nineteenth century. The “we” that the etiquette manuals refer to, then, is the same class of bourgeois citizens whom the republican constitutions address: citizens who know how to speak, eat, use silverware, blow their nose, deal with servants, and behave themselves in society. These subjects are perfectly familiar with “the theater of etiquette, the rigidity of appearance, the mask of contention” (González Stephan 1995, 439). In this sense, González Stephan’s observations agree
  6. 6. 274 Nepantla with those of Max Weber and Norbert Elias, for whom the formation of the modern subject went hand in hand with the requirement of self-control and the repression of instincts, the goal being to make social difference more visible. The “process of civilization” implies an increase of the threshold of shame, for it was necessary to clearly distinguish oneself from all of the social classes that did not pertain to the arena of civitas which Latin American intellectuals like Domingo Faustino Sarmiento identified as the paradigm of modernity. “Civility” and “civic education” thus operated as pedagogical taxonomies that separated dress coats from ponchos, neatness from filth, the capital from the provinces, the republic from the colony, civilization from barbarism. Within this taxonomic process, grammar manuals also played a foundational role. In particular, González Stephan mentions Andrés Bello’s Gramática de la lengua castellana destinada al uso de los americanos [Grammar of the Castilian language destined for American use] published in 1847. The project of the construction of the nation required the stabilization of language so that laws could be properly implemented and commercial transactions facilitated. A direct relationship exists, therefore, between language and citizenship, between grammar manuals and manuals of etiquette: the purpose in all of these cases is to create the Homo economicus, or the patriarchal subject charged with promoting and carrying out the modernization of the republic. From the normativity of the written word, the Latin American grammar manuals sought to establish a culture of “buen decir” (formal speech) so as to avoid “the vices of popular speech” and the coarse barbarisms of the masses (González Stephan 1996, 29). We are thus faced with a disciplinary practice that reflects the contradictions that would eventually tear apart the project of modernity: establishing the conditions for “liberty” and “order” implies the subjection of instincts, the suppression of spontaneity, and the control over differences. To be civilized, to enter into modernity, to become Colombian, Brazilian, or Venezuelan citizens, individuals not only had to behave properly and know how to read and write, but they also had to make their language fit a series of norms. The submission to order and the norm leads the individual to substitute the heterogeneous, spontaneous vital flow for a continuum that is arbitrarily constituted from the written word. It is thus clear that the two processes indicated by González Stephan, the invention of citizenship and the invention of the other, are genetically related. The creation of the modern citizen in Latin America entailed the generation of a reverse image from which this identity
  7. 7. 275 Castro-Gómez . The “Invention of the Other” could assess and affirm itself as such. The construction of the imaginary of “civilization” required the production of its counterpart: the imaginary of “barbarism.” In both cases, more is at stake than just abstract representation. These imaginaries have a concrete materiality, in the sense that they are bound to abstract systems of disciplinary nature such as schools, law, the state, prisons, hospitals, and the social sciences. It is precisely this link between knowledge and discipline that permits us to speak, following Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, of the project of modernity as an exercise in “epistemic violence.” Although González Stephan indicates that all of these disciplinary mechanisms strove to create the profile of Homo economicus in Latin America, her genealogical analysis, inspired by the microphysics of power analyzed by Michel Foucault, does not permit an understanding of how these processes are linked to the dynamic of capitalism’s constitution as worldsystem. In order to conceptualize this problem, a methodological turn is necessary: the genealogy of power-knowledge, as developed by Foucault, must be broadened into the sphere of longue durée macrostructures (as analyzed by Fernand Braudel and Immanuel Wallerstein) so we can visualize the problem of the “invention of the other” from a geopolitical perspective. To this end, it would be useful to examine how postcolonial theories have approached this problem. The Coloniality of Power, or, the “Other Face” of Modernity One of the most important contributions of postcolonial theories to the current restructuring of the social sciences is their demonstration that the rise of nation-states in Europe and the Americas from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries was not an autonomous process, but rather one with a structural counterpart: the consolidation of European colonialism abroad. The social sciences’ persistent negation of this link between modernity and colonialism has been one of the clearest signs of their conceptual limitations. Permeated from the beginning with a European imaginary, the social sciences projected the idea of an aseptic and self-generating Europe, historically formed without any contact with other cultures (see Blaut 1993). Rationalization—in a Weberian sense—would thus have resulted from the attribution of qualities inherent to Western societies (the “passage” from tradition to modernity) and not from Europe’s colonial interaction with America, Asia, and Africa since 1492.4 From this perspective, the experience of colonialism seems to be completely irrelevant to an understanding of the phenomenon of modernity and the rise of the social sciences. For
  8. 8. 276 Nepantla Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans, this means that colonialism did not primarily represent destruction and plunder but, above all, the start of the tortuous, inevitable road to development and modernization. This is the colonial imaginary that traditionally has been reproduced by the social sciences and by philosophy on both sides of the Atlantic. Nevertheless, postcolonial theories have shown that any inventory of modernity which does not take into account the impact of the colonial experience on the formation of properly modern power relations is not only incomplete, but also ideological. For this type of disciplinary power, which, according to Foucault, characterizes societies and modern institutions, was generated precisely at the center of a web of power/knowledge marked by coloniality. Coloniality should not be confused with colonialism. While colonialism refers to a historical period (which, in the case of Latin America, ended in 1824), coloniality references a technology of power that persists today, founded on the “knowledge of the other.” Coloniality is not modernity’s “past” but its “other face.” The category of “coloniality of power,” suggested by Peruvian sociologist Aníbal Quijano (1999), refers precisely to this situation. In Quijano’s opinion, colonial depredation is legitimized by an imaginary that establishes incommensurable differences between the colonizer and the colonized. Here, notions of “race” and “culture” operate as a taxonomic construction that generates opposing identities. The colonized thus appears as the “other of reason,” which justifies the use of disciplinary power by the colonizer. Wickedness, barbarism, and incontinence are “identitarian” markers of the colonized, while goodness, civilization, and rationality pertain to the colonizer. Both identities are related through exteriority and are mutually exclusive. Any communication between them cannot take place in the sphere of culture—since their codes are incommensurable—but only in the sphere of the Realpolitik dictated by colonial power. A “just” politics would be one that, through the implementation of juridical and disciplinary mechanisms, attempts to “normalize” the other by completely Westernizing him or her. The concept of the “coloniality of power” broadens and corrects the Foucauldian concept of “disciplinary power” by demonstrating that the panoptic constructions erected by the modern state are inscribed in a wider structure of power/knowledge. This global structure is configured by the colonial relation between center and periphery that is at the root of European expansion. As Enrique Dussel has shown, this structure is created during the “first modernity,” which corresponds to the hegemony
  9. 9. 277 Castro-Gómez . The “Invention of the Other” of Spain over the Atlantic circuit (see Dussel’s contribution to this issue of Nepantla). The concept of disciplinary power Foucault works with refers to the “second modernity,” or the period of state biopolitics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and can be understood as a “modality” of the coloniality of power. We can thus state that modernity is a project of governing the social world which emerged in the sixteenth century. Its constructions of power/knowledge are anchored in a double coloniality: one directed inward by European and American nation-states in their effort to establish homogenous identities through politics of subjectification, the other directed outward by the hegemonic powers of the modern/colonial world-system in their attempt to ensure the flow of primary materials from the periphery to the center. Both processes are part of the same structural dynamic. My thesis is that the social sciences developed in this space of modern/colonial power and in the ideological knowledges it generated. From this perspective, the social sciences did not produce an “epistemological rupture” (in an Althusserian sense) with respect to ideology. Instead, the colonial imaginary permeated the entire conceptual system of the social sciences from their inception.5 In this sense, the majority of seventeenthand eighteenth-century social theorists (Hobbes, Bossuet, Turgot, Condorcet) agreed that the “human species” slowly emerged from ignorance and crossed different “stages” of perfection until finally reaching the “coming of age” that modern European societies had achieved (see Meek 1981). The empirical referent employed by this heuristic model to define the first “stage,” the lowest on the scale of human development, is that of American indigenous societies as described by European travelers, chroniclers, and navigators since the sixteenth century. The characteristics of this first stage are savagery, barbarism, and the total absence of art, science, and writing. “In the beginning all was America,” that is, all was superstition, primitivism, the struggle of all against all, the “state of nature.” The final stage of human progress, already achieved by European societies, is constructed instead as the absolute “other” of the first and as its reverse image. In this stage reign civility, the state of law, the cultivation of science, and the arts. Here, man has reached a state of “enlightenment” in which, according to Kant, he is capable of self-government and the autonomous use of reason. Europe has blazed the path to civilization that all nations of the planet must take.
  10. 10. 278 Nepantla It is not difficult to see how the conceptual apparatus that emerged with the social sciences in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is sustained by a colonial imaginary of ideological character. Binary concepts like barbarism and civilization, tradition and modernity, community and society, science and myth, infancy and maturity, organic solidarity and mechanical solidarity, and poverty and development, among many others, have fully permeated the analytic models of the social sciences. The imaginary of progress, according to which all societies evolve in time following universal laws inherent to nature or the human spirit, appears as an ideological product constructed from the mechanism of modern/colonial power. The social sciences function structurally as an “ideological apparatus” that internally sanctioned the exclusion and disciplining of those who did not conform to the profiles of subjectivity that the state needed to implement its politics of modernization. Externally, the social sciences legitimized the international division of labor and the inequality of the terms of interchange and commerce between the center and the periphery, that is, the enormous social and economic benefits that European powers obtained through domination of their colonies. The production of alterity within and the production of alterity without were part of the same construct of power. Coloniality of power and coloniality of knowledge were situated in the same genetic matrix. From Disciplinary Power to Libidinal Power I would like to conclude this essay by analyzing the transformations capitalism undergoes once the end of the project of modernity is consolidated, and the consequences these transformations may have on the social sciences and a critical theory of society. I have conceptualized modernity as a series of practices oriented toward the rational control of human life. Among these practices are the institutionalization of the social sciences, the capitalist organization of the economy, the colonial expansion of Europe, and, above all, the juridicoterritorial configuration of nation-states. We have also seen that modernity is a “project” because the rational control over human life is exercised from within and without through a primary instance, which is the nation-state. But what do we refer to when we speak of the end of the project of modernity? We can begin by responding in the following manner: Modernity no longer operates as a “project” insofar as the social is configured by instances that escape the control of the nation-state. Or, in other words, the project of modernity reaches its “end” when the nation-state loses the capacity to
  11. 11. 279 Castro-Gómez . The “Invention of the Other” organize people’s social and material lives. It is then that we may properly speak of globalization. Although the project of modernity always had a tendency toward the “worldness” (Mignolo 2000) of human action, I believe that what today is called “globalization” is a sui generis phenomenon, since it brings with it a qualitative change in the global mechanisms of power. I would like to illustrate the difference between modernity and globalization using the concepts of embedding and disembedding developed by Anthony Giddens: while modernity disembeds social relations from their traditional contexts and reembeds them in posttraditional spheres of action coordinated by the state, globalization disembeds social relations from their national contexts and reembeds them in postmodern spheres of action that are no longer coordinated by any particular instance. From this perspective, I maintain that globalization is not a “project,” because governmentability no longer needs an “Archimedian point,” that is, a central instance that regulates the mechanisms of social control.6 We can even speak of a “governmentability without government” to indicate the spectral, nebulous character, at times imperceptible but effective for this very reason, that power assumes in times of globalization. Subjection to the world-system is no longer assured through the control over time and body exercised by institutions like factories or schools but, rather, by the production of symbolic property and its irresistible seduction of the consumer’s imaginary. The libidinal power of postmodernity attempts to shape individuals’ total psychology in such a way that each may reflexively construct his or her own subjectivity without having to oppose the system. On the contrary, the system itself offers the resources that permit the differential construction of the Selbst. Whatever lifestyle one chooses, whatever project of self-invention or act of autobiographical writing, there is always an offer on the market and an “expert system” that guarantees its trustworthiness.7 Far from repressing differences, as did the disciplinary power of modernity, the libidinal power of postmodernity stimulates and produces them. We have also noted that within the framework of the modern project, the social sciences basically functioned as alterity-producing mechanisms. This was due to the fact that the accumulation of capital required the creation of a “subject” profile that would easily adapt to the demands of production: white, male, married, heterosexual, disciplined, hardworking, self-controlled. As Foucault has shown, human sciences contributed to the creation of this profile insofar as their object of knowledge was constructed through institutional practices of confinement and sequestration. Prisons,
  12. 12. 280 Nepantla hospitals, asylums, schools, factories, and colonial societies were laboratories from which the social sciences recovered, through its reverse image, the ideal of “man” that would impel and sustain the processes of capital’s accumulation. This image of “rational man” was obtained counterfactually, by studying the “others of reason”: the insane, Indians, blacks, social misfits, prisoners, homosexuals, the poor. To construct the profile of subjectivity required by the modern project, therefore, all these differences had to be suppressed. Nevertheless, if my argument up to this point is plausible, in the moment at which the accumulation of capital no longer demands the suppression but rather the production of differences, the structural link between the social sciences and the new mechanisms of power should also change. The social sciences and humanities must undergo a “paradigm shift” allowing them to adjust to the systemic requirements of global capital. The case of Lyotard seems to me symptomatic. He lucidly affirms that the metanarrative of the humanization of humanity has entered into crisis, but he simultaneously proclaims the birth of a new legitimizing narrative: the coexistence of different “language games.” Each language game defines its own rules, which no longer need to be sanctioned by a higher court of reason. Neither Descartes’s epistemological hero nor Kant’s moral hero continues to function as a transcendental instance that defines the universal rules by which all players should play, irrespective of the diversity of the games in which they participate. For Lyotard, in the “postmodern condition” it is the players themselves who construct the rules of the game they wish to play in. There are no previously defined rules (Lyotard 1990 [1979]). The problem with Lyotard is not that he has announced the end of a project that, in Habermas’s (1990, 32–54) opinion, is still “inconclusive.” Instead, the problem stems from the new narrative that Lyotard proposes. To affirm that previously defined rules no longer exist is to render invisible—that is, to mask—the world-system that produces differences based on rules defined for all of the globe’s players. Let me be clear: the death of the world-system’s metanarratives of legitimation does not mean the death of the world-system itself! Rather, it entails a change in the power relations within the world-system, which generates new narratives of legitimation such as the one proposed by Lyotard. The strategy of legitimation is different, however: no longer a set of metanarratives that reveal the system, ideologically projecting it onto an epistemological, historical, and moral macrosubject, it consists, rather, of micronarratives that leave the system outside of representation; that is, they make it invisible.
  13. 13. 281 Castro-Gómez . The “Invention of the Other” Something similar occurs within so-called cultural studies, one of the most innovative paradigms in the humanities and social sciences toward the close of the twentieth century.8 Of course, cultural studies have contributed to the loosening of disciplinary boundaries whose rigidity was converting our departments of social sciences and humanities into a handful of incommensurable “epistemological fiefdoms.” The transdisciplinary vocation of cultural studies has been extremely healthy for some academic institutions that, in Latin America at least, had become accustomed to “guarding and administering” the canon of every discipline.9 It is in this context that the Gulbenkian Commission report shows how cultural studies have begun to build bridges between the three great islands among which modernity distributed scientific knowledge (Wallerstein et al. 1996, 64–66). Nevertheless, the problem lies not so much in the inscription of cultural studies into the university sphere, nor even in the type of theoretical questions cultural studies provoke or the methodologies they utilize, as in their use of these methodologies and in their responses to these questions. It is evident, for example, that the spread of the culture industry throughout the world has called into question the separation between high and low culture, which thinkers from the “critical” tradition like Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno were still bound to, as were our great Latin American “men of letters,” with their conservative, elitist tradition. But within this interchange between high culture and popular culture enabled by the mass media, within the planetary negotiation of symbolic property, cultural studies have seemed to see only a liberating explosion of differences. Urban mass culture and the new forms of social perception generated by information technologies are viewed as spaces of democratic emancipation, and even as a locus of hybridization and resistance before the imperatives of the market. Faced with this diagnostic, one begins to wonder if cultural studies have mortgaged their critical potential to the commodity fetishism of symbolic property. As in Lyotard’s case, the world-system remains the great absent object in the representation offered us by cultural studies. It is as if merely naming “totality” had become taboo for contemporary social sciences and philosophy, just as in Judaism it was a sin to name or represent God. The “permitted” topics—which today enjoy academic prestige—are the fragmentation of the subject, the hybridization of life-forms, the articulation of differences, and the disenchantment with metanarratives. The use of categories like “class,” “periphery,” or “world-system,” which propose to
  14. 14. 282 Nepantla encompass heuristically a multiplicity of specific situations of gender, ethnicity, race, background, or sexual orientation, marks one as “essentialist,” as behaving in a “politically incorrect” manner, or at least as having fallen under the spell of metanarratives. These reproaches are sometimes justified, but perhaps there is an alternative. I consider that the great challenge for the social sciences consists in learning how to name totality (with its persistent colonial face) without falling into the essentialism and universalism of metanarratives. The task of a critical theory of society is, then, to make visible the new mechanisms of colonial production of differences in times of globalization. In the Latin American case, the major challenge is to “decolonize” the social sciences and philosophy. Although this is not a new agenda for us, our goal today is to disengage ourselves from a whole series of binary categories (colonizer versus colonized, center versus periphery, Europe versus Latin America, development versus underdevelopment, oppressor versus oppressed, etc.) that dependency theories and liberation philosophies worked with in the past. We must understand that it is no longer possible to conceptualize new configurations of power using this theoretical tool.10 From this perspective, the new agendas of postcolonial studies could revitalize the tradition of critical theory in our field (Castro-Gómez, Guardiola-Rivera, and Millán de Benavides 1999). Translated by Desirée A. Martín Notes 1. As Anthony Giddens demonstrates clearly, the social sciences are “reflexive systems,” since their function is to observe the social world within which they themselves are produced. See Giddens 1999 [1991], 23. 2. I have addressed the problem of cultural identity as a construct of the state in CastroGómez 1999. 3. For this reason, I prefer to use the category “invention” instead of Argentine philosopher Enrique Dussel (1992)’s “encubrimiento” (covering over or concealing). 4. Recall that Max Weber wonders, at the beginning of The Protestant Ethic (1992 [1904], 13), by “what combination of circumstances the fact should be attributed that in Western civilization, and in Western civilization only, cultural phenomena have appeared which (as we like to think) lie in a line of development having
  15. 15. 283 Castro-Gómez . The “Invention of the Other” universal significance and value.” This question guides his entire theory of rationalization. 5. A genealogy of the social sciences should show that the ideological imaginary that penetrated the social sciences originated in the first phase of consolidation of the modern/colonial world-system, that is, in the period of Spanish hegemony. 6. The materiality of globalization is no longer constituted by the disciplinary institutions of the nation-state, but rather by corporations that recognize neither territories nor borders. This implies the configuration of a new framework of legality, that is, a new form of the exercise of power and authority, such as the production of new punitive mechanisms (a global police) that would guarantee the accumulation of capital and the resolution of conflicts. The wars in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo are good examples of the “new world order” emerging after the Cold War and as a consequence of the “end” of the project of modernity. See Hardt and Negri 2000; and Castro-Gómez and Mendieta 1998. 7. I take the concept of “trust” deposited in expert systems from Giddens (1999 [1991], 84). 8. For an introduction to Anglo-Saxon cultural studies, see Agger 1992. For the case of cultural studies in Latin America, the best introduction is still Rowe and Schelling 1993 [1991]. 9. Here we need to understand the different political significance that cultural studies have had in North American and Latin American universities. While cultural studies in the United States have become a convenient vehicle for rapid academic “careerism” in a structurally flexible atmosphere, in Latin America they have served to combat the frustrating ossification and parochialism of university structures. 10. For a critique of the binary categories that Latin American thinking engaged with during the twentieth century, see Castro-Gómez 1996. References Agger, Ben. 1992. Cultural Studies as Critical Theory. London: Falmer. Bacon, Francis. 1984 [1620]. Novum organum. Madrid: Sarpe. Blaut, James M. 1993. The Colonizer’s Model of the World: Geographical Diffusionism and Eurocentric History. New York: Guilford. Blumenberg, Hans. 1973. Die Legitimität der Neuzeit. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.
  16. 16. 284 Nepantla Carreño, Miguel Antonio. 1854. Manual de urbanidad y buenas maneras para uso de la juventud de ambos sexos . . . precedidio de un breve tratado sobre los deberes morales del hombre. New York: Appleton. Castro-Gómez, Santiago. 1996. Crítica de la razón latinoamericana. Barcelona: Puvill. . 1999. “Fin de la modernidad nacional y transformaciones de la cultura en tiempos de globalización.” In Cultura y globalización, edited by Jesús Martín-Barbero, Fabio López de la Roche, Jamio E. Jaramillo, and Renato Ortiz. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Centro de Estudios Sociales. Castro-Gómez, Santiago, and Eduardo Mendieta. 1998. “La translocalización discursiva de Latinoamérica en tiempos de la globalización.” In Teorías sin disciplina: Latinoamericanismo, poscolonialidad y globalización en debate, edited by Santiago Castro-Gómez and Eduardo Mendieta. Mexico City: Porrúa. Castro-Gómez, Santiago, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, and Carmen Millán de Benavides. 1999. Introduction to Pensar (en) los intersticios: Teoría y práctica de la crítica poscolonial, edited by Santiago Castro-Gómez, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, and Carmen Millán de Benavides. Bogotá: Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Dussel, Enrique. 1992. El encubrimiento del otro: El orígen del mito de la modernidad. Bogotá: Antropos. Giddens, Anthony. 1999 [1991]. Consecuencias de la modernidad. Translated by Ana Lizón Ramón. Madrid: Alianza. González Stephan, Beatriz. 1995. “Modernización y disciplinamiento: La formación del ciudadano—del espacio público y privado.” In Esplendores y miserias del siglo XIX: Cultura y sociedad en América Latina, compiled by Beatriz González Stephan et al. Caracas: Monte Avila. . 1996. “Economías fundacionales: Diseño del cuerpo ciudadano.” In Cultura y tercer mundo: Nuevas identidades y ciudadanías, compiled by Beatriz González Stephan. Caracas: Nueva Sociedad. Habermas, Jürgen. 1990. Die Moderne: Ein unvollendetes Projekt. Leipzig: Reclam. Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Lyotard, Jean-François. 1990 [1979]. La condición postmoderna: Informe sobre el saber. Translated by Mariano Antolín Rato. Mexico City: Rei. Meek, Ronald. 1981. Los orígenes de la ciencia social: El desarrollo de la teoría de los cuatro estadios. Translated by Eulalia Pérez Sedeño. Madrid: Siglo XXI. Mignolo, Walter. 2000. Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  17. 17. 285 Castro-Gómez . The “Invention of the Other” Quijano, Aníbal. 1999. “Colonialidad del poder, cultura y conocimiento en América Latina.” In Pensar (en) los intersticios: Teoría y práctica de la crítica poscolonial, edited by Santiago Castro-Gómez, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, and Carmen Millán de Benavides. Bogotá: Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Rowe, William, and Vivian Schelling. 1993 [1991]. Memoria y modernidad: Cultura popular en América Latina. Mexico City: Grijalbo. Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1991. Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms. London: Polity. Wallerstein, Immanuel, et al. 1996. Open the Social Sciences: Report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Weber, Max. 1992 [1904]. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Talcott Parsons. Introduction by Anthony Giddens. London: Routledge.