1 The State of Things Passed: Transculturation as
National-Popular Master Language
1 As Laclau indicates, the essential features of populism are (1) an elite imbued
with an anti–status quo ideology, (2) a mobilized mass generated by a ‘‘revolu-
tion of rising expectations,’’ and (3) an ideology with a widespread emotional
appeal (‘‘Towards’’ 152). A populist hegemonic articulation depends on the
ability of the dominant class to ‘‘articulate different ‘conceptions of the world’
in such a way as to neutralise their potential antagonism’’ (177). Within popu-
lism the category of ‘‘the people’’ promotes widespread emotional appeal and
neutralizes class conflict. For Laclau, ‘‘the people is a concept without a de-
fined theoretical status; despite the frequency with which it is used in political
discourse, its conceptual precision goes no further than the purely allusive or
metaphorical level. . . . Populism is both an elusive and a recurrent concept.
Now we understand why it is elusive: all the uses of the term refer to an ana-
logical basis which, in turn, lacks conceptual precision’’ (165).
2 Cardoso and Faletto trace the history of popular incorporation in the follow-
ing terms: ‘‘The distinctive feature of the transition period in Latin America
in the relations among social groups and classes was the growing participation
of the urban middle classes and of the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie
in the system of domination. The social situation was expressed on an eco-
nomic level by policies to consolidate the domestic market and to industrial-
ize. . . . Countries that began to grow in these ways underwent a demographic-
ecological transformation as a proletariat emerged and as a non-wage-earning
popular sector developed in the cities. The growth rate of the latter sector usu-
ally was higher than the rate at which new jobs were generated by industri-
alization. This brought about the formation in Latin America of what came
to be called ‘mass urban societies’ in insufficiently industrialized economies.
The presence of masses, together with the beginnings of industry that pro-
duced more than just nondurable consumer goods, characterized the initial
period of inward development. This period intensified during World War II
and reached its peak in the 1950s. During this period, industrialization was
‘substitutive’: it was made possible mainly by difficulties of importation and
subsequently by lack of foreign exchange. It used and expanded the produc-
tion base of the preceding period to meet domestic demand for consumer and
intermediate goods. In the process, the role of the state increased and changed
in character. The state had fundamentally expressed the interests of export-
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