Los límites del poder / Cantórbery Cuevas

The Limits of Power

Ernesto Laclau is an Argentine sociologist with an extensive oeuvre, who I recall from his meticulous investigations several decades ago regarding the nature of economic power in that country. His focus is centered on the application of the Marxist thesis of ground rent to Argentina's reality, and his work served as a base, among other sources, for Bernard Mommer (Global Oil and the Nation State, Oxford University Press, 2003) to build the scaffolding for his vision of the mining economy in Venezuela, which is the foundation of the current petroleum politics of the recently reelected government, for which he happens to be Vice-Minister of Energy.

Doctor Mommer went to the original sources in Karl Marx in order to, among other notorious merits, demolish Eduardo Galeano's simplistic and over-generalizing thesis in Open Veins of Latin America, according to which the imperialist devil indiscriminately sucks up the subcontinent's goods and wealth by means of pillage. Laclau and Mommer's proposal is that in notorious cases the land-owning State associates itself with transnational, speculative capital so they can share the dividends between them according to the correlation of forces at the moment.

Last Sunday, election day, the daily El Nacional published an interesting interview with Ernesto Laclau himself (who I don't know why I had thought had long ago disappeared), at present a professor of Political Science at the University of Essex, whose interview deals with a different, if no less interesting, topic: surmounting the present institutional chaos in our Latin American countries by means of the apparently single path of temporal populism. The illustrious professor sustains his analysis on recent historical experiences in France, Argentina and Mexico, and he invites us in this hemisphere to place our bets on the provisionality of the caudillo of the moment and on an eventual unraveling of equilibrium between that figure and the new institutional quality.

Such a bet seems, to say the least, risky. Moreover, if it might serve as a consolation of sorts , we should concur—just as I have postulated in previous notes—that, at the dawn of an auspicious post-Fidel Castro era, we in Latin America are not due for a moment of epic solutions or permanent and all-powerful egocracies.


In the middle of the eleventh century in Italy, Petru Damiani—better known as Saint Peter Damian—successfully refutes in De divina omnipotentia the thesis of God's presumed absolute power, arguing that the Perfect Being cannot, for example, change the past or restore lost virginity to deflowered virgins.

Let each person draw his own conclusions.

{ Cantórbery Cuevas, TalCual, 7 December 2006 }

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