Jeremy Smith


civilizational analysis, Latin America, modernities


There are too few perspectives in civilizational analysis that examine Latin America. One exception is found in the work of Shmuel N. Eisenstadt on multiple modernities and the Americas. Eisenstadt’s research is a point of departure for Michela Coletta’s Decadent Modernity: Civilization and ‘Latinidad’ in Spanish America, 1880-1920. Through chapters on the so-called Latin Race, rural and metropolitan identities, national education, and what Coletta calls the ‘aesthetics of regeneration’, the author explores cultural, sociological, and political trends in Southern Cone countries Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina in the fin de siècle era of European and American modernities. This is a wonderfully multidisciplinary work covering problematics derived from sociology, art, literature, education, history, urbanism, philosophy, and politics. All this comes together to lead readers to questions about the conceptual apparatus of ‘civilization’ and ‘culture’ in an era in which doubts about both notions abounded, but also processes of their pluralization.