Positivism and education reform in late nineteenth-century Latin America
Jens R Hentschke (Newcastle University)
Malet 630
Start time:
4 April, 2014 at 14:15 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel wants to unite political, social, and intellectual historians who explore the spread of the various schools of European positivism to and within Latin America, the ways how these ideas were creatively digested, and the impact the suggested 'scientific politics' had on education reform.

Long abstract:

Late nineteenth-century Latin America has been associated with economic modernization,state formation, and nation-building under the auspices of positivism. Yet, positivism never represented a homogeneous worldview. Not only is it possible to distinguish between different strands and generations of European positivists; the intellectual trajectory of some of its leading proponents, first and foremost Auguste Comte, also displays evolutions and ruptures that allow for different readings and applications. Latin American intellectuals, linked to international circuits, were all but passive recipients of these ideas. Their contact with them differed in time and space, and they always creatively adjusted them to changing national and regional particularities and needs. Different positivisms could coexist, and often they merged with other, even opposing, ideological currents, such as liberalism and Krausism. While republican Rio Grande do Sul came closest to a Comtean 'sociocratie' and Uruguay remained the exclusive domain of Herbert Spencer, in Mexico and Argentina French and English positivism interacted. In Chile, with its relatively stable post-independence polity, positivism could do no more than color liberalism, allowing for Krauso-positivist mergers earlier than in other countries of the region. Education reform, as a means of belated nation-building, figures prominently on the agenda of all fin-de-siecle positivists and therefore offers a suitable testing ground for the varying appropriations of this philosophy of science and its translation into socially cohesive practices. We would like to see papers on different countries, reform projects, and model schools, in order to allow for comparisons.