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Paperback The Invention of Argentina Book

ISBN: 0520082842

ISBN13: 9780520082847

The Invention of Argentina

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Book Overview

The nations of Latin America came into being without a strong sense of national purpose and identity. In The Invention of Argentina , Nicholas Shumway offers a cultural history of one nation's efforts to determine its nature, its destiny, and its place among the nations of the world. His analysis is crucial to understanding not only Argentina's development but also current events in the Argentine Republic.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Argentina: One country, differents projects.

This book represents a significant contribution for understanding that complex nation which is Argentina. This is a country that has moved from being one of the more advance nations of the world at the beginning of the XX century, to a country that currently has almost half of its population under the level of poverty. This book stresses that the different ways nineteenth century intellectuals and leaders framed the idea of Argentina is a decisive factor to understand its historic development. These "guiding fictions", as the author calls them, continue to shape and inform the country's actions and concept of itself. Through a rigorous -but accessible- analysis, the book deals with the work of the most important writers and thinkers of nineteenth century Argentina, and their ideas and images of the nation. In this endeavor, the author is free from the ideological constrains and ties which characterized Argentine "official history" -as well as its revisionist counterpart. This allows the book to openly analyze some of the figures of the Argentine history and to point out their divergent ideological legacy. Particularly interesting is chapter 3 which -for many Argentineans- might represent a "discovering" of Artigas, and his contribution for the building of Argentina. Equally remarkable are chapter 8 on Sarmiento and chapter 9 on Mitre, which stress the exclusion and divisiveness that characterized part of their legacy to the country -even though this might be difficult to accept for some of my fellow citizens, it is historically based-. By the end of the book, the reader has the clear idea that it is difficult to understand Argentina, without understanding the different -and most of the time-, contrasting frames for imagining the country which are embedded in the old tensions between liberalism and nationalism, Unitarians and Federals, Buenos Aires and the provinces. In conclusion, this is an excellent book for any person interested in Argentina.

Brilliant. A must read.

Brilliant! An interesting view about Argentina's history by analyzing and comparing the minds, achievements and contradictions of the Argentine framers and intellectuals.

Argentina revealed

An unprejudiced look at the history of Argentina. Based on his theory of the "guiding fictions" which (true or not) usually provide the basis for the spiritual development of nations, Shumway shows that no such paradigms stood at the beginning of Argentina's history; in fact, contradictory guiding fictions developing along the way produced irreconcilable differences which still haunt today's society - Unitarians against Federalists, Liberals against Nationalists. Rather than analyzing the chronology of battles and governments (which, when the moment comes, are rather entertainingly disposed of), Shumway prefers to obtain his amazing insight from the writings of Argentina's national heroes, politicians, theoreticians and poets. The result is a history of histories which throws a new light on the country's evolution, its relationship with the United States and Europe and on its mysterious incapacity to fully belong to the first world. It even provides the interested reader with the method to keep reasoning on long after the book has ended (it only goes as far as the 1880's; the author has to be encouraged to write a second volume soon!). Highly recommended to anyone who wants to better understand Argentina and Latin America, especially the brainwashed by generations of "official" textbooks.


I have read this book in 1993 for the first time and I have re-read it at different occasions since then. The topic of the book, the making of Argentina, follows the line open by many social scientists who, like Anderson, treat the origin of states as foundational and orientational myths. Nevertheless, far from vindicative or apologetic, the book itself implies a serious analysis of the historical development of third world nationalisms. On this line, Shumway permanently tries to indicate the implicit or explicit political purpose present in the philosophical, artistic and journalistic discourse of the nineteenth century local bourgeoisie. These three, together with the chronological sequence follown, are the core of the material used by the author. All in all, it might be said that, having been written by an American specialist on local affairs, the book has - from the view of an Argentine teacher of History in highschool - Ahumway has acchieved a remmarkable work. The freshness and the wit of the outsider observer together with the objectivity of the passionate researcher who tries - to the best of his capabilities - to resist the traditional biases that still characterize our political debates are the two facts that have impressed me the most..

A thorough look of Argentina

A very accurate view of our country The foundations of our nation from a historical perspective Argentina demistified.
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