Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 230246
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Spain

A new perspective on 19th century state building in Latin America

An EU-funded project has conducted research on the state building process in Latin America. Starting with fiscal history, the work considered the evolution of bureaucracy and military forces inherited from the colonial period.
A new perspective on 19th century state building in Latin America
The construction of the state in Latin America underwent great transformations, starting from the Revolution of 1810 and especially during the wars of independence (1810-1825). The project STATEBGLATAMERICA (A comparative history of the state building process in Latin America (1820-1870)) studied the forms and rhythms of state construction in select and diverse Latin American national and/or provincial cases.

In most of the newly forged nations, wars of independence and years of civil strife demanded the formation of stable military and police forces to construct the indispensable monopoly of legitimate violence characterising state domination. This process required localising the resources needed to cover the enormous expenses incurred by military forces and bodies of bureaucrats assigned with creating a system to generate resources.

Project results envision the Latin American state as a camp of forces in which diverse social actors (including individuals) act in a crisscross pattern, disputing the control over the camp. Except for exceptional cases of absolute totalitarian states, disputes for control of the camp do not allow for phases of stability that can endure.

Conception of the state as an apparatus lends itself to a problematic characterisation, one in which the state is detached from society, has its own life, and exists removed from any social relationship. This project offers a contrasting viewpoint, positing that the state is a framework of social relations of domination, which is constantly at the boiling point, in perpetual upheaval and instability.

Project researchers contend this characterisation is more readily visible in the process of state building in Latin America during the 19th century. As the state building process is being consolidated, sectors of the camp of forces are progressively institutionalised (e.g. civil servants, armed forces). However, this process of institutionalisation remained unstable, at least until well beyond the period studied. This explains the rampant fragility characterising the process of construction of all the Latin American states during the 19th century, and even in some cases during a considerable part of the 20th century.

The project's research, findings and interpretations offer a reformulated conception of the Latin American state and the process of its construction during the 19th century.

Related information


19th century, state building, Latin America, military forces, wars of independence, STATEBGLATAMERICA
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