Introduction: The problem of persistence in Latin American history

Jeremy Adelman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


Politics is never far removed from Latin American historical inquiry. If narratives of the past help make sense of experiences, then they offer clues about how to amend, transform or perpetuate these experiences. It should not surprise us to find that many of the authors offering scripts for continuity do so with programmatic intentions. A common aspect of these intentions, however, is the deep undertow of pessimism. Arguments about Latin American historical legacies-like accounts of the ethnic butchery in Bosnia or religious enmities in the Middle East-frequently serve to explain why modest, gradual, cumulative change is so difficult. The result, in political terms, is a rocking between periods of unchanging stasis and massive social upheaval. So if the past is destiny, then the prospects for a stable progressive present are seldom great. For some this helps justify voluntarist calls for revolutionary ruptures to break the grip of inertial forces; for others it is a warning against tinkering with explosive social arrangements lest they be plunged into irretrievable chaos.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationColonial Legacies
Subtitle of host publicationThe Problem of Persistence in Latin American History
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781136052460
ISBN (Print)0415921538, 9780415921527
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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