Rethinking Knowledge and Difference in Latin America’s Insurgent Moment: On de Sousa Santos and García Linera

A Review of Plebeian Power by Álvaro García Linera, and Epistemologies of the South by Boaventura de Sousa Santos

In: Historical Materialism
Robert Cavooris University of California Santa Cruz

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This review examines two works that address the theoretical importance of Latin American political movements over the last two decades. I argue that while Boaventura de Sousa Santos raises the important issue of the political relationship between difference and unity, his work lends itself to ambiguous conclusions regarding this relationship. In particular, de Sousa Santos underestimates Marxism’s potential role as a theory and practice of political union. Nonetheless, his work provides certain insights on epistemology and political temporality that may help Marxism amplify its political relevance today. Álvaro García Linera’s text represents a particular mode by which Marxism may engage with a politics of difference; however, I argue that García Linera’s work contains a tension between difference construed in autonomist, material terms and difference construed as identity. The latter, I suggest, has come to serve in Bolivia as the basis for an ultimately limited political project.

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