Latin America’s Long Cold War
A Century of Revolutionary Process and U.S. Power
gilbert m. joseph
This collection has sought to provide a new agenda for the study of revolu-
tionary change and political violence in twentieth-century Latin America. In
the process it also helps to redefine notions of cold war in Latin America.1
Socially Embedding Political Violence
Inspired by Arno Mayer’s provocative comparative treatment of violence
and terror in the French and Russian Revolutions—and by Greg Grandin’s
introductory essay that applies (and qualifies) Mayer’s “furies” for twentieth-
century Latin America—the volume’s essays have provided a timely cri-
tique of triumphalist, post–cold war revisions of modern social revolutions,
which effectively have sought to disconnect the category of political vio-
lence from socially embedded historical struggles. Whereas these revisionist
historians (abetted by currents in postmodern cultural criticism and semi-
otics) typically portray revolutionary violence as the “meaningless spawn of
modern politics,” or the product of arrogant and uncompromising radicals
whose left utopian projects have run amok, the present contributors, apply-
ing fine-grained historical and ethnographic analysis to episodes of revolu-
tionary and counterrevolutionary violence in Latin America, interpret these
episodes as the very birth pangs of the region’s modernity. That birth was
delayed and fiercely contested over the course of the twentieth century:
it was embedded in an often ferocious dialectic that involved diverse re-
formist and revolutionary midwives for social change and national devel-
opment, and their antagonists, who were willing to exercise all manner of
Previous Page Next Page