Mexico, Interrupted: The Idea of Work in Mexican Cultural Production, 1857-1952 Open Access

Gutierrez Negron, Sergio Carlos (2015)

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This dissertation argues that for more than a century and a half, the Mexican intelligentsia approached the question of work and its opposites in its attempts to explain the seeming contradiction of a Mexico that was materially rich yet which languished in underdevelopment. To this end, I trace the constitution of what I call the Mexican "archive of work" through key moments in the nation's cultural history in which attempts were made to articulate a work ethic capable of delivering the nation into prosperity, while at the same time remaining authentically Mexican. I define the "archive of work" as a discursive matrix composed of three conceptual nuclei--the Christian notion of duty, the liberal notion of work as self-development, and the thermodynamic and scientistic notion of metabolic work--which determines all discussions of work and its opposites in modern Mexico. My chapters engage a wide array of written cultural objects that spans a variety of genres: from the assorted writings, legislations, articles, speeches and novels of 19th century liberal and conservative lettered elite, to the textual production--philosophical treatises, essays, and novels--of the mid twentieth century. Together, these documents allow for an exploration of the idea of work in Mexico and the ontological and political narratives about man's place in the world that serve as its ground.

Table of Contents


  • Introduction 1
    • The Archive of Work 9
    • A Brief Liberal History of the Concept of Work 14
    • Mexican(ist) Work 21
    • The Work at Hand: Outline of this dissertation 26
  • Chapter 1. Work, Necessity, Restraint and The Future of the Nation, 1856-1862 31
    • The Estate Must be Protected!: The Necessity of Restraint and The Constitutive Suspension in Roa Bárcena's La quinta modelo 41
    • A Place Beyond the Whip: The Restraint of Necessity and The Freedom of Work in Pizarro Suárez's El monedero 59
    • Conclusion 85
  • Chapter 2. National Thermodynamics: Science and Metabolic Work in the Porfiriato, 1899-1911 91
    • The Metabolism of the Nation: Work and Mexican Science 101
    • The History of Positivism in Mexico 105
    • The (Historical) Thermodynamics of the Nation 116
    • The Interrupted Archive of Work, 1899-1909 138
    • The Ateneo de la Juventud and the Restitution of Freedom in Work 139
    • Trinidad Sánchez Santos, the Rerum Novarum and the Promise of Christian Work 152
    • Conclusion 158
  • Chapter 3. A National Suspense: Liberal Work, Official Discourse, and lo mexicano, 1934-1952 162
    • Discipline, Sacrifice, Freedom: Official Notions of Work in the Administrations of Lázaro Cárdenas, Manuel Ávila Cámacho and Miguel Alemán 170
      • Integral industrialization and self-development: On Cárdenas's cooperativist work 170
      • Selflessness and the Nation: Ávila Camacho's sacrificial work 178
      • Laborious consumption: Alemán's emphasis on consumption over work 184
    • The Suspended Center of lo mexicano: Ramos and Uranga 190
      • Inferiority and 'authentic' work: On Samuel Ramos 195
      • Zózobra, insufficiency, accident, and cynical work: On Emilio Uranga 211
    • Conclusion 229
  • Conclusion: The Fractured Archive 234
    • Vicens, or After the Archive 246
  • Works Cited 257

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