Humanism Begets Good Order: Alfonso Reyes and Police Thought (September-December 1939)

Gareth Williams

* editing and publication by 17, instituto de estudios críticos

Volume 1, 2012

The world is a labyrinth from which it is impossible to escape because all roads, even when they pretend to go North or South, really go to Rome.
—Jorge Luis Borges

Recent scholarship on Alfonso Reyes and the anti-positivist generation of scholars known as the “Ateneo de la Juventud” or, as Alfonso García Morales calls it, the “Ateneo de México”, has emphasized the universalizing function of the state and its relation to the humanist approach to cultural history in modern Mexico. Robert T. Conn has presented Alfonso Reyes’s intellectual sources through the prism of his “Aesthetic” and “Pedagogic” States, as fundamental conceptual matrices for advancing the unifying function of culture. Meanwhile, drawing on Antonio Gramsci’s response to Georg W. F. Hegel and Benedetto Croce, Horacio Legras has examined the relation between the formation of the “Ateneo” in the final years of the Porfirio Díaz regime and the forging of what he calls the “ethical state” during the post-revolutionary period. Neither scholar, however, considers the historical, philosophical and political question of sovereign power, or of sovereign will, in its relation to the universalizing function of the post-revolutionary state and the humanist rendering of national culture. As a result, a concept of the political in the relation between state function and humanistic culture in Alfonso Reyes, for example, is still largely unavailable to us. The purpose of this essay is to explore that relation and its consequences for our understanding of police logic and its relation to history in twentieth century Mexico.

The question, of course, is how the political –understood here as the ancient struggle between the poor and the rich– plays itself out in Reyes’s approach to the relation between aesthetics, cultural history and state formation. By this I do not wish to imply that the political is a pre-existing object beyond the textual, or a supplementary field of vision that needs to be inserted into Reyes’s language in order to account for his ideological portrayals of cultural history. In other words, I am not talking about the political as that which is lacking or absent in Reyes’ writing. On the contrary, I am referring to the political in Reyes as that which is not missing, as that which has always been there, but as the object of a productive oversight in which the whole function of the field of knowledge is to not see it. Indeed, the function of the field of knowledge is to forbid any sighting of it. As such, I consider the (dis)order of the political in Reyes to be identical to the (dis)order of police knowledge.

For this reason I consider it to be particularly important to examine the historical, philosophical and political complexities of two of Alfonso Reyes’s essays dating from the final period of the Lázaro Cárdenas sexenio (1934-1940). I am referring here to “Pasado inmediato”, dated September 1939 (which has been described by Carlos Monsiváis as “Reyes’s most severe text”)[1] and “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, dated December 1939. These two essays (which I read as companion texts) coincide with the beginning of Reyes’s tenure at the Casa de España as Spain’s Second Republic crumbled in the face of Francisco Franco’s rebel forces. They were conceptualized in a period of four months and were penned only shortly after Reyes’s return to Mexico from his diplomatic duties in Buenos Aires. After years of absence, then, Reyes returns to Mexico and immediately recuperates his experience of the final years of the Díaz dictatorship as a means of confronting the foundational question of culture versus anarchy in Mexico’s “immediate past” and, as a consequence, in its immediate present. Before initiating our close reading of these texts, however, we should first indulge in a brief conceptual digression that will nevertheless allow us to come back to Reyes’s writings on modern mexican cultural history and the transition from dictatorship to the consolidation of the integrative police order (or ethical state).

The first step in this digression is to note that Reyes’s notion of the political is linked intimately to the Latin-Romanic notion of Humanitas, and therefore to the care for the fact that man (homo) is human (humanus) and not inhumane; that is, outside his essence[2] Roman humanitas is set up against, and defined in relation to its opposite. As Martin Heidegger informs us in his “Letter on ‘Humanism’”, Latin-Romanic notions of education lie at the heart of the distinction between the human and the in-humane:

Humanitas, explicitly so called, was first considered and striven for in the age of the Roman Republic. Homo humanus was opposed to homo barbarusHomo humanus here means the Romans, who exalted and honored Roman virtus through the “embodiment” of the education [paideia] taken over from the Greeks. These were the Greeks of the Hellenistic age, whose culture was acquired in the schools of philosophy. It was concerned with eruditio et institution in bonas artes. Education thus understood was translated as humanitas. We encounter the first humanism in Rome: it therefore remains in essence a specifically Roman phenomenon, which emerges from the encounter of Roman civilization with the culture of late Greek civilization.[3]

It is the sustained division of the world into humanitas and homo barbarus that allows us to consider the origins of Alfonso Reyes’s humanistic universalism in tandem with Carl Schmitt’s notion of the political. Heidegger continues:

The so-called Renaissance of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Italy is a renascentia romanitatis. Because romanitas is what matters, it is concerned with humanitas and therefore with Greek paideia. But Greek civilization is always seen in its later form and this itself is seen from a Roman point of view. The homo romanus of the Renaissance also stands in opposition to homo barbarous. But now the in-humane is the supposed barbarism of Gothic Scholasticism in the Middle Ages. Therefore a studium humanitatis,which in a certain way reaches back to the ancients and thus also becomes a revival of Greek civilization, always adheres to historically understood humanism. For Germans this is apparent in the humanism of the eighteenth century supported by Winckelmann, Goethe, and Schiller.[4]

With the conquest of the Indias Occidentales –a historical, philosophical and legal juncture at which Europe was forced to reinvent itself as the center of the earth and the source of all standards– it was the Roman distinction between humanitas and homo barbarus, together with their common relation to Aristotle’s Politics, that fuelled the discussion regarding just war and legal title for the occupation and annexation of territory alongside the subjugation of the indigenous peoples (the origins of the modern jus publicum Europaeum).[5] For example, it was the distinction between humanitas and homo barbarus that allowed Juan Ginés Sepúlveda to argue in 1530 for native servitude, legal land-appropriation and the sovereignty of the Spanish State over all conquered territories.[6] In later years Francisco de Vitoria upheld the distinction between humanitas and homo barbarus, but questioned the Aristotelian maxim that some people are slaves by nature. He did this by following St. Augustine’s thesis that people may be barbarous and human, and, like Bartolomé de Las Casas before him, opened up the legality of conquest to the question of Christian guidance (education and spiritual conversion). Ultimately what mattered to Vitoria was that “Indians, though they are not Christians and may be guilty of many crimes, should not be treated as criminals, but as opponents in war”.[7] This non-discriminatory notion of war against barbarians –a war that is always about the fundamental legality of apportioning space and converting souls to Christianity– was animated not just by the notion of the homo barbarus, but also by the notion of hostis (meaning “public enemy”, as opposed to inimicus, the “private enemy”).

The barbarian, then, became a public, legal enemy in a war between civilizationally unequal humans occupying the same space. In the nineteenth century this was the essential role of the homo barbarus in the nomos of the emergent Latin American nation-state. This can be seen most persuasively in Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s Facundo in which we encounter, in response to the figure of the tyrant Rosas as the incarnation of the homo barbarus-become-sovereign power, a fundamental thesis on the relation between peripheral liberal culture and “the structure-determining convergence of order and orientation in the cohabitation of peoples”.[8] Homo barbarus as hostis and herefore as the public enemy of the nomos –as the public enemy, that is, of private land- appropriation which, for the liberal Sarmiento, was the essential telos for the extension of the legal jurisdiction of the sovereign secular nation-state– is also the underlying ground for Carl Schmitt’s 1932 definition of the political as the distinction between friend and enemy:

The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy… Each participant is in a position to judge whether the adversary intends to negate his opponent’s way of life and therefore must be repulsed or fought in order to preserve one’s own form of existence… The friend and enemy concepts are to be understood in their concrete and existential sense, not as metaphors or symbols, not mixed and weakened by economic, moral, and other conceptions, least of all in a private-individualistic sense as a psychological expression of private emotions and tendencies… The enemy is not merely any competitor or just any partner of a conflict in general… The enemy is hostis, not inimicus in the broader sense.[9]

This opens up our digression –this pathway back toward Alfonso Reyes and the political– to the tension between various disparate elements: namely, the nomos of the emergent nation-state in its relation to land-appropriation; the political understood as the subjectivist affirmation of a friend/enemy antithesis that is conditioned by nomic land-appropriation and its cultural history; education as the eruditio et institutio in bonas artes; and the extension and legitimization of sovereign will.

For the time being, however, I will leave these elements aside in order to take them up again a little later. First, however, I would like to posit the question of amity for, in Schmitt’s definition of the political, enemies exist only to the extent that there are, or there could be, friends. Indeed, more than any other conceptual framework it is the politics of friendship that allows us direct access to the language of Alfonso Reyes and the question of the political in the final days of the 1930s. Carlos Monsiváis was the first to highlight the relation between Reyes and the idea of friendship as a communal intellectual project. However, he limits his insight to biographical detail and the early epistles between Reyes and Henríquez Ureña.[10] Friendship as a concept and as a structuring force in Reyes’s thought –a force that, as Margo Glantz has pointed out, cannot be separated from the function of the master– is for the most part overlooked by Monsiváis. “Pasado inmediato” and “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, however, are all about the affirmation and restitution to the present of history’s intellectual amity lines and perceived or desired master-functions.[11] Thirty years after the outbreak of what would become a decade of revolutionary upheaval, “Pasado inmediato” restores the jurisdiction of genealogical friendship to the Revolution. Meanwhile “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, which was penned in honor of the impending publication in 1940 of Sierra’s monumental historical writings (titled Evolución política del pueblo mexicano), testifies to the legacy of the Ateneo generation’s intellectual and institutional pater familias (whom Reyes refers to as a “white giant” in “Justo Sierra”[12] and as “the best: almost a saint” in “Pasado inmediato”.[13]

The function of authorial desire in these texts is to restore and shore up the lines between amity, historical knowledge and the political. This allows us to speculate that for Reyes these texts are a response to the perceived fracturing of, or decline in, the effectiveness of those lines, thereby indicating a profound crisis of authority in the decisive ethical (and therefore cultural) state-form. If this is the case, then they are a response to the decline of a certain social master-function, or ideal of subjection, within the nomos of post-revolutionary Mexican society: a response to the challenges caused by a theoretical and political decline in the relation between a certain notion of culture and its concomitant truth regimes. Friendship, within such a context, would represent a chance to restitute a truth to which humanistic historical knowledge could be devoted, in a world placed increasingly at risk by a profound and increasingly generalized shift in the ethical authority of the state.

Reyes is writing at an extraordinary moment: a moment of maximal nomic danger both for the national context as well as for the stage of world affairs. Between 1935 and 1936 President Lázaro Cárdenas had revitalized the agrarian reforms first agreed upon in the Torreón Pact of 1914 and later guaranteed under Article 27 of the 1917 Constitution. This revitalization, together with the expropriation of foreign-owned oil resources in March 1938, unleashed a national and international debate on the terms and privileges of private property as well as on the terms of sovereign control of the nation over its land and subsoil. The symbolic unification of the national community with the soil and subsoil as a result of the “socialization” of property was guaranteed by the 1917 Constitution and was inherited directly from the Jacobinist and communitarian forces of the agrarian revolution. The agrarian reforms of 1935 to 1936, the nationalization of the oil industry in March 1938, and the handing over of the railroad system to the workers in May 1938 marked the culminating point in the pact (a pact that had actually been written into law since 1917) between the Mexican state and the people. As already suggested, this was perhaps the moment of greatest intensity in the post-revolutionary debate over conflicting notions of law, private property, and the relation between individual and society in postrevolutionary Mexico, because Cárdenas was recuperating from the revolution the more radical tenets of collectivized property while the initial victors of the revolution and the subsequent post-revolutionary “establishment” –that is, the carrancistas and sonorenses (Álvaro Obregón and Plutarco Elías Calles)– upheld the U.S. liberal-capitalist notion of private property.[14]

Meanwhile, by 1938 the founding in Guanajuato of the Unión Nacional Sinarquista had unleashed across the center of the country hundreds of thousands of peasants mobilized by a religious utopia motivated by “cristero” millenarianism and the Spanish falangistamyths of blood, sacrifice and death.[15] In September of the same year, Cárdenas had written a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposing a coordinated continental boycott of Germany as a result of Nazi aggressions in Czechoslovakia.[16] However, his suggestion was not taken seriously. Chamberlain, Dudalier, Mussolini and Hitler met in Munich and consolidated Nazi rule over Czechoslovakia. On September 22, 1938, Leon Trotsky (who had been in Mexico since the previous year) wrote in the press: “After the collapse of Czechoslovakia Stalin will seek an accord with Hitler”.[17] He was right. Six months later, on April 1st 1939, Franco proclaimed the victory of his rebellious forces and the demise of a Spanish Republic that had received unconditional support from the Cárdenas regime even since before the rebels’ initial assault three years earlier. By the time Reyes began to put pen to paper with “Pasado inmediato” and “Justo Sierra y la historia patria” the world was well on the way to the conflagration of world war, and, as Adolfo Gilly puts it, like the Zapatista commune of 1915 the cardenista “utopia” was increasingly alone and isolated as the political climate within Mexico turned to the Right.[18]

It is at this moment of maximal nomic anxiety, of fundamental shifts in regional, national, and imperial realities that Alfonso Reyes turns to the question of national cultural history and the present’s relation to the Revolution. As we will see, the structure underlying the notion of the political in these essays is that of the restitution and restoration of a previous time. The intelligibility of restoration in both essays –the conceptual terrain of their essential problematic– is posited in, and as a, relation to the determination of visibility and to what Althusser calls “the organic link binding the invisible to the visible”.[19] Within this organic link the visible is “the definite structured field of the theoretical problematic of a given theoretical discipline” and the invisible is “its shadowy obverse”,[20] that is, “the defined excluded, excluded from the field of visibility and defined as excluded by the existence and peculiar structure of the field of the problematic”.[21]

Reyes is perfectly conscious of this ideological binding and problematic: “Unless it is an inventory of inexpressive facts the historical essay, consciously or unconsciously, brings to light the historian’s angle of vision and the mental language of his time, vision and language containing a representation of the world”.[22] In “Pasado inmediato” Reyes is more explicit. Regional (Mexican) ontology, in its relation to the historical, depends on the consolidation and definition of the grounds and limits of the visible:

Perspective is a finalist interpretation… By adding several perspectives and systems of reference, reducing some to others and taking into consideration the relativity of them all, as well as their interdependence on an omnipresent eye capable of assimilating the picture from all sides simultaneously, we will come closer to the miracle of comprehension. The immediate past is the most modest of verb tenses… Hopefully, one day, between us all, we will present it successfully as a “defined past”.[23]

The demarcation of the visible and the invisible, in other words, is what will allow Mexico to wake up from the nightmare of historical uncertainty and instability.

It is friendship that provides the specific and decisive orientation for Reyes’ thematization of cultural history and the political. This does not mean to say, however, that the essays in question present absolutely no shadowy obverse or inner darkness of exclusion, or, indeed, uncovering of enmity, within the certainty and truth of their conceptual imperium. On the contrary, both essays present enmity as the defined excluded, as excluded from the field of visibility and defined as excluded by the existence and structure of the field of amity. This inner darkness of exclusion in these essays produces the necessary fall from truth of amity’s opposite. Furthermore, this relation between the certainty of the overseen and the exclusions that are sustained and silenced by the overseer bears witness to the essential ground of Reyes’ Latin-Romanic imperialism.

These wide-ranging essays represent for Reyes a moment of sustained reflection on the relation between culture and temporality in the months leading up to the crucial presidential elections of 1940. Together they allow us to approach the conceptual determination of the relation between culture, temporality, and the political in late 1930s Mexico since they highlight, at a moment of maximal national and international nomic anxiety, the ways in which relations of continuity can be, and, indeed, are established between the production of historical narrative and the consolidation of the modern bourgeois State-form. They highlight the relation between the speculative understanding of history and the forging of grids of intelligibility designed to oversee the bourgeois management and administration of life on a national scale.

For Reyes it is all a question of suturing history to truth and culture (which Reyes refers to as “intelligence”) in a context of inter-generational instability and on-going debate on the significance for the present of the chaos of the past: “The problem: the History that has just occurred is always the least appreciated… The immediate past! Is there anything more unpopular? It is, to a certain degree, the enemy”.[24] How, given this problematic context, can the cultural sphere give sense to the historical when it is grounded in the instability (the cultural and institutional anarchy) of the Revolution? As already noted, for Reyes it is a question of “intelligence”. In particular, it is a question of intelligence’s ability to establish a relation of absolute agreement and conformity between knowledge (reason) and fact (Mexican history):

The Mexican Revolution sprang more from an impulse than an idea. It was not planned. It did not correspond to the application of a framework of principles, but, rather, was a natural growth. Previous programs were drowned in its torrents and could never govern it. It was not prepared by encyclopedists or philosophers, more or less conscious of the consequences of their doctrines, as was the French Revolution. It was not organized by the dialecticians of social warfare, as was the Russian Revolution. It had not even been outlined in light of our own Liberal Reform. No: circumstance prevailed and ultimate goals could not be glimpsed. It was born almost blind like a child and, like a child, only slowly began to open its eyes. Intelligence accompanied the Revolution but did not produce it. Sometimes it just suffered as it waited for the day of illumination. The dignity of History consists in achieving the parallelism of ideas and facts, in which what should function for peoples is the golden adage proposed by the MoralEpistle: “Make thought equal to life”.[25]

Obviously, what is at stake for Reyes in intelligence’s relation to Mexico’s revolutionary historicity is the ability of the intellectual to grasp the indeterminate realm of the uncanny and transform it into a condition that enables oversight and management (which he refers to here as “a defined past”, product of “the miracle of comprehension”). The grasping, transformational force of the intellectual in Reyes has its origin in the adequatio intellectus et rei (the agreement and conformity of knowledge with fact and of fact with knowledge) that lies at the heart of the Latin-Romanic notion of veritas. This is where education, the Roman eruditio et institutio in bonas artes –scholarship and training in good conduct, also known as humanitas– becomes fully bound to the author’s forging of historical amity/master lines. Moreover, it is this act of binding that enables the development of his metaphysical quest for a defined (calculated, manageable) past.

Reyes uncovers what he considers to be the nexus between education and amity by recounting the story of the founding of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria under the guidance of the nineteenth-century liberal positivist intellectuals, Gabino Barreda and Justo Sierra. The Escuela is chosen by Reyes because it was the “‘alma mater’ of so many generations, it gave a new physiognomy to the country”[26] after years of turmoil, upheaval, resistance to foreign occupation, civil war and Liberal Reform. However, his essay is not so much about positivist state formation in the nineteenth century, as it is about the decadence of that state-form and the transition to a more vital, humanistic evaluation of the cultural sphere’s relation to modern state formation.

Reyes delves into the gradual decomposition of the Escuela’s essential educational mission which begins to lose its way, he suggests, as the Díaz regime becomes increasingly institutionalized, homogeneous, lethargic, and self-satisfied in the aging of its paternalistic caste structure. Like the increasingly ossified Porfirian state-form, “Barreda’s legacy dried up in the mechanisms of method”;[27] “Scientific instrumentality became rusty”;[28] “Physics and Chemistry became chalkboard sciences, without sustained experimental corroboration”;[29] “Literature was in decline”;[30] “Whoever wanted to attain something from the Humanities had to conquer them alone, without any effective help from the Escuela”.[31] The situation in the Escuela Nacional de Jurisprudencia[32] is not much better, as the country’s education system in general is said to have fallen into a “greenhouse atmosphere with the rarity of a rubber bell”, because, says Reyes, “we were lacking the tools to examine ourselves… We had a static concept of the country and were ignorant of the torments threatening us”.[33]

However, Reyes’ generation (the so-called “Centenary Generation”) “began to suspect that we had been educated –unconsciously– in an imposture… Mexican positivism had become a pedagogical routine and in our eyes was losing credit”.[34] It is at this point, with the image of Porfirian complacency and ossification underlying Reyes’s portrayal of cultural and scientific isolationism in the pedagogical institutions, that the author transforms his essay into a compendium of the names of the historical, cultural (that is, literary), and philosophical friends and masters of the emergent Revolutionary age. The new dawning of intelligence in the culture of the immediate past is to be found in the names of Friedrich Nietzsche, José Enrique Rodó, Justo Sierra, Jesús Urueta, Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, Salvador Díaz Mirón, Manuel José Othón, Jorge Icaza, Luis Urbina, Amado Nervo, Juan José Tablada, Rubén Darío and the Spanish “Generation of ‘98”;[35] Alfonso Cravioto, Luis Castillo Ledón, Jesús Acevedo, Ricardo Gómez Robelo;[36] Rafael López, Manuel de la Parra, Eduardo Colín, Roberto Argüelles Bringas, Enrique González Martínez, and Julio Torri.[37] Last, but by no means least, it is to be found in the names of his fellow founders of the “Ateneo de la Juventud” in 1909: Antonio Caso, José Vasconcelos and Pedro Henríquez Ureña.[38]

It is at this point that Reyes begins to adopt (without irony) the Weimar language of an emergent generation of volatile, youthful geniuses living in open rebellion against the accepted standards of their academic and cultural environment, the actions of whom, in the cultural sphere, are portrayed as fully proportionate to the emergent political rebelliousness of their times. It is this language that establishes the ground for the synthesis (the Latin-Romanic adaequatio intellectus et rei) of Mexico’s (predominantly agrarian, peasant-based) revolutionary history and the intellectual intelligence of his urban, bourgeois generation: “When the attack began these were the knights of the Mexican Sturm-und-Drang”,[39] he says; “The challenge was sincere and we accepted it. In the streets we raised the flag of free art… For the first time you could see the youth filing past, clamoring for the privileges of beauty and ready to defend it with their fists… That is how our action extended through the bourgeois neighborhoods. There was a little of everything: metaphysics and education, painting and poetry. The success was evident”.[40] In 1908, after a number of attacks against Gabino Barreda (founder of the Escuela Preparatoria) in the conservative press of Mexico City, the positivists of the Escuela organized a conference in honor of his memory. However, Reyes’s small academic falange surprised the proceedings with their non-compliance with the institution’s positivist precepts. This “new political sentiment”, says Reyes in exalted terms that actually have little to do with fact, “was the first patent signal of a public consciousness emancipated from the regime. Within the theoretical order, it is not imprecise to say that this was the dawn of the Revolution”.[41]

In Reyes’ mind this theoretical dawning of the Revolution coincides fully with the practical origins of what would later become the Maderista uprising that gripped the nation from 1910 to 1913. The question, of course, is how to create this synthesis for the readership of 1939. Reyes does this by framing the Revolution as an evolutionary passage from the cultural and scientific isolationism of the Porfirian era to Mexico’s dynamic integration into a cultural league of nations; a natural transition toward cultural cosmopolitanism (universalism) that emerged harmoniously in tandem with the initial expression of displeasure that surfaced in 1910 against the stagnant protocols of the “ancien regime”. In Reyes’ account, what allows for that natural evolution from isolationism to universal culture is his own “literary passion”; a maneuver that highlights a quite remarkable indistinction in Reyes’ thought between individual experience (in this case, personal preference or literary taste) and the political turmoil of a whole national class structure:

The uprisings have begun, the scattered outbursts, the first steps of the Revolution. Meanwhile, the culture campaign begins to see results. We should insist on summing up its conclusions once again. Literary passion tempered itself in the cultivation of Greece, it rediscovered Spain –which never before had been considered with such love or knowledge–; it discovered England, it looked out toward Germany without ever distancing itself from the always kind and beloved France. It wanted to return a little to the Classical languages and a lot to Spanish; it searched for the formative traditions that constructed our civilization and our national being. In very different regions and other depths, soon the political shake-up would be felt everywhere.[42]

This marks the end of what Reyes calls “the first campaign”. Maintaining his un-ironic language of heroic rebelliousness, Reyes then goes on to describe the Ateneo’s “second campaign” as comprising “four battles” in their “quest for the people”.[43] Reyes refers to the fact that he and his friends were offered teaching positions at the recently inaugurated Universidad Nacional during the Francisco I. Madero years as “the occupation of the university” (the first battle). The second battle was the establishment of the (neo-positivist) Universidad Popular in the final days of Madero’s life. The third battle, the establishment of the Facultad de Humanidades in the Universidad Nacional, paves the way for more genealogical affirmations of amity and, of course, more lists of names. Some are repeated from the “first campaign”. The new ones, however, include Sotero Prieto, Ezequiel Chávez, Valentín Gama, Jesús Díaz de León, Mariano Silva;[44] Antonio Castro Leal, Manuel Toussaint, Alberto Vásquez del Mercado, Xavier Icaza, Vicente Lombardo Toledano, and Mauel Gómez Morín.[45] The fourth battle, “the most violent period of our struggles”, as Reyes puts it, refers not to the mass uprising against Victoriano Huerta of the peasant forces of the North and South, but to the cycle of conferences offered at the Universidad Nacional by intellectuals such as Acevedo, Ponce, Gamboa, Urbina, Henríquez Ureña and Caso.[46]

And this brings us to the end of the history and amity lines of what Reyes considers to be the immediate past. The subsequent ten years of revolutionary upheaval and emergent state formation are summed up in the following terms: “The Revolution returned with Carranza, to experience its convulsions until 1920. The sacrificed generation still had enough strength to publish the journal Nosotros… In the worst years, from 1914 to 1916, editorial production in Mexico was overwhelming and superior to anything we had seen until that point. Then came Vasconcelos’ formidable educational work, the excellent organizational skills of Genaro Estrada. New names appeared”.[47] After providing his reader with a seemingly endless compendium of names dating almost exclusively from the transition from the Porifiriato dictatorship to the brief and largely continuist spirit of Maderismo, Reyes talks of the contemporary moment in terms of an overriding need to re-suture the spirit and function of those friends and masters –together with the time they inhabited– to the present:

The year of the Centenary is distant. It can only be remembered with difficulty. Perhaps one might like to forget it. However, it will be impossible: with its cries and unsteadiness it opened up the possibility of the future. It put thought into gear, posing questions and initiating promises that, truncated by discord, should be bound once again to the passage of time. In the hour of examining consciences –that midnight of the spirit in which we would like to begin all over again– the guiding light of our symbolic stage can still illuminate us.[48]

In other words, it is necessary to harmonize the time of Mexican modernity by reactivating the tradition of Reyes’ post-positivist cultural nobility and restituting it to the present. After all, this nobility, it is suggested, can re-establish the grounds of an uninterrupted genealogy between the years preceding the assassination of Madero and Mexico’s post-1939 generations. As such, the years of transition from the ancient regime of the Porfiriato to the first phase of the Revolution (that is, before the full blown agrarian assault of 1914) is portrayed by Reyes as “the guiding light of our symbolic stage” that “can still illuminate us”. Reminiscent of Henry de Boulainvillier’s invitation to the French nobility in the nineteenth century –“You will not regain power if you do not regain the status of the knowledges of which you have been dispossessed… The fact is that you have always fought without realizing that there comes a point when the real battle, or at least the battle within society, is no longer fought with weapons, but with knowledge”[49] – Reyes proposes a new self- awareness and a re-articulation of the sources of knowledge and memory as a means of forging a new historical subject grounded in bourgeois, humanist precepts. In order to do this Reyes insists on the relation between his masters and the power of education, which he always takes in its Latin-Romanic sense: as ex ducere; to lead something out of the darkness into the light of day in order to be seized.[50]

But whose illuminating self-awareness, knowledge, memory and historical subjectivity –whose “guiding light”, in other words– is Reyes really referring to here? When faced with the acute nomic anxiety of longstanding historical discord and disharmony –an anxiety that is projected back to the Díaz regime and the Maderista period, but that must also refer to the moment in which the author puts pen to paper (if this were not the case, why would he write with such care to detail thirty years after the fact?)– Reyes’s best friend and most revered master is Justo Sierra; “the incomparable Justo Sierra, the best and oldest of all”;[51] “illustrious organizer of primary education. Wherever he intervened, he did good”;[52] “the noblest intelligence and purest will”:[53] “All Mexicans venerate and love the memory of Justo Sierra”;[54] “He was all virtue without austere affectation, authority without a frown, love to all men, understanding and forgiveness, sure orientation and a confidence in goodness that achieved almost heroic proportions”.[55] When the first rumbles of longstanding popular discontent emerged around the time of the Centenary (1910), Justo Sierra “held out, between the old and new regimes, a continuity of spirit, in the midst of the general state of collapse and the impending transformations, that it was necessary to save at all costs”.[56]

As already noted, Reyes wrote “Justo Sierra y la historia patria” on the eve of the re-editing in 1940 of Sierra’s monumental history of Mexico, now bound in a single volume titled Evolución política del pueblo mexicano. For Reyes the texts comprising La Evolución política, which had been published at the turn of the century and, as such, at the height of the Porfiriato, are the culminating point in the evolution of Mexican intelligence: “By its side, all other works of its kind are modest”.[57] Sierra’s historical work is “a justification of the Mexican people. Whoever does not know it does not know us, and those who do know it can deny us affection only with great difficulty”.[58] But, more than anything else, for Reyes the value of this monumental writing of history –this grandiose encyclopedia of the historical essence of Mexican subjectivity– is to be found in the fact that: “Justo Sierra provides us with the normal history of Mexico”: “The revolutionary shake-up that would occur in later years exercises an irresistible attraction on immediate problems. It invites propaganda and polemic, and can perturb the trace of certain fundamental perspectives. Justo Sierra provides us with the normal history of Mexico”.[59] The force of Sierra’s arguments are most notable, says Reyes, in reference to the modern epoch (the immediate past) because, as a political educator, Sierra knows that “the destiny of the past is to create a necessary future and the most immediate past is that which provides us with the richest of lessons”.[60]

However, for Reyes in 1939 Sierra’s “normal history of Mexico”, the weight and authority of the immediate past and its ontological relation to the essence of what it means to be Mexican in the present, should not be considered in light of, nor in relation to, the upheaval of the Revolution itself:

It might be suggested that this history, suspended at the threshold of the Revolution, should be revised in light of the Revolution itself. No: it simply needs to be completed. In this history one can find all the premises for the explanation of the future, the same when he judges the social status of the Indian, the mestizo, or the Creole; and the very candor with which it was written is the finest guarantee that it is not necessary to twist or falsify the facts in order to understand the present.[61]

The insights and perspective provided by the Revolution would merely twist or falsify “the normal history of Mexico”, for it is this that provides the essential premise for the explanation of the future. It is the “normal” (correct) history rather than the “abnormal” (incorrect) history that should now be restituted and successfully completed by the generation of 1939. The Revolution, in other words, was a historical aberration that interrupted normality. Normality is tantamount to historical truth. The Revolution is the fall from that truth.

However, Reyes, who is so concerned with the Latin-Romanic notion of education (and therefore with leading something out of the darkness into the light of day in order to be seized) –a form of guidance that is synonymous, of course, with the grounds of Roman humanitas– prefers to keep us in the dark regarding what can be understood by this word “normal” in 1939, even though he assures us that “Justo Sierra’s Evolución política is still on the move, as is the inspiration of his work. Don’t say it has died”.[62]

At the turn of the century, however, Justo Sierra himself was far clearer about the meaning and context of this word and the history it is used to qualify. In the final pages of “La era actual”, the last book of Evolución política, Sierra observes in his examination of the Porfirian state-form that in order to guarantee what he calls “our complete evolution”,

We needed, and we will always repeat it, like all peoples in times of supreme crisis, like the people of Cromwell and Napoleon, certainly, but also like those of Washington and Lincoln and Bismarck, Cavour and Juárez, a man, a consciousness, a will that could unify the moral forces and transform them into a normal impulse; this man was President Díaz. Without violating a single legal formula President Díaz has been invested, by the will of his fellow citizens and by the applause of foreigners, with a life-long magistracy. This investiture –the submission of the people with all its official organs, and of society as a whole, to the will of the president– can be baptized “social dictatorship”, “spontaneous Caesarism” or whatever. The truth is that it has singular characteristics that do not allow it to be classified under the classical forms of despotism. It is a personal government that extends, defends and strengthens legal government… [it is] the offspring of a national will to leave anarchy behind forever.[63]

Forty years apart in their analyses of the immediate past, Sierra sustains and Reyes restores the notion of the historically “normal”. Sierra obviously uses the term to account for the institutional and police ground of Porfirian sovereign power. However, Reyes establishes a genealogical relation of intellectual amity with the masterful figure and language of Justo Sierra in order to do two things: first, like Sierra, recuperate the image of Porfirian sovereign power and subjection (the complete and legal submission of the whole of society to the will of the President Imperator); second, and this time unlike Sierra, distance Mexican state formation from the events and interpretative prism of the Revolution, together with, consequently, the post-revolutionary period too. In other words, in 1939 Reyes strives to make the Porfiriato and the final months of the Cárdenas sexenio closer to each other in time and spirit (1902/1939) than either one of them 41 are to the Revolution, even though it is the upheaval of the Revolution that joins and separates them.

The Porfiriato is the immediate past for Reyes, not the Revolution or the period that followed it, and it is the immediate past, including its network of amity relations, that “provides us with the richest of lessons”.[64] In December 1939 Justo Sierra is recuperated by Reyes as an absolute friend and master whose language can be articulated against the anarchic noise of history. The social dictatorship of the Porfiriato is the abode, the intellectual dwelling, from within which to mediate the passage away from the upheaval of both the past and the present.

In the recuperation of the figure of the absolute master and friend we confront the unconditioned affirmation of Reyes’s historical subjectivism and, alongside it, the virtus of his humanitas. However, in this willful assertion of subjectivity (a subjectivity that exists in the exclusive service of the master’s historical function) we confront the ideological content of his metaphysical ontology and the politics of his philology. We encounter a theory of sovereignty for modern Mexico (an ethic) grounded in the sovereign will of Porfirio Díaz (the submission of society to the will of the Imperator) that can then be redistributed throughout time and reproduced in 1939 thanks to the intellectual relation between old and young generations (in which, presumably, Reyes occupies for 1939 the place occupied by Sierra in 1902).

Through our close reading of “Pasado inmediato” and “Justo Sierra y la historia patria” we can see the narrative, philosophical, and political technique of Alfonso Reyes at work. This is a technique grounded in metaphysical subjectivism and the active concealment and oblivion of historicity. These are essays designed to give the illusion that one is entering thought when in fact historical thought –the act of thinking the conflictive essence of national historicity (for example, the classical struggle between the poor and the rich)– is always already disavowed. This disavowal, which is a means of defending the present from all images of disharmony, is anchored in the philological field of knowledge by posing all problems and solutions exclusively on the terrain, and within the horizon, of the restoration of amity. The relation between amity and historical knowledge in these essays is, in other words, a relation of absolute reconcilement and orthodoxy.

As I indicated earlier, the intelligibility of restoration in both essays –the conceptual terrain of their essential problematic– is posited in, and as a, relation to the determination of visibility and to what Althusser calls “the organic link binding the invisible to the visible”.[65] The invisible is that which is “excluded from the field of visibility and defined as excluded by the existence and peculiar structure of the field of the problematic”.[66] For that reason the invisible is the “inner darkness” of the given field of knowledge, and the whole function of this field is to obfuscate any sighting of it.

In “Pasado inmediato” and “Justo Sierra y la historia patria” we are faced with two defined exclusions or zones of inner darkness that belong to the field of Reyes’ philological knowledge. However, they belong in the texts by not belonging to the history of amity (which is now the same as saying “History = Amity”). The first defined exclusion or inner darkness within the frame of these texts is to be found at the end of “Pasado inmediato”. The second can be found in “Justo Sierra…”. The word that defines them both as history’s inner darkness is the word “normal” that Reyes recovers so quietly from Sierra. Let us return briefly to the two moments in question:

The Revolution returned with Carranza, to experience its convulsions until 1920. The sacrificed generation still had enough strength to publish the journal Nosotros… In the worst years, from 1914 to 1916, editorial production in Mexico was overwhelming and superior to anything we had seen until that point. Then came Vasconcelos’ formidable educational work, the excellent organizational skills of Genaro Estrada. New names appeared.[67]

It might be suggested that this history [Evolución política], suspended at the threshold of the Revolution, should be revised in light of the Revolution itself. No: it simply needs to be completed… the very candor with which it was written is the finest guarantee that the facts not be twisted or falsified to understand the present.[68]

In the first passage the Revolution is subjected to a process of natural (philological) selection. Carranza’s revolution is portrayed in this passage as the direct political antecedent to Vasconcelos’ post-revolutionary cultural and pedagogical projects, and, as such, is taken to be the only natural antecedent, within the Revolution, to the “normal” institutionalization of Latin-Romanic humanitas (that is, the rediscovery of the virtus of a sustained program of eruditio et institutio in bonas artes) that took place in the 1920s under the Sonoran Presidents Obregón and Calles. Reyes therefore extends his amity lines to include Carranza’s revolution because the origins of the post-revolutionary ethical state are to be located in Carrancismo’s subsequent relation to that institutionalization (Carranza begets Obregón; Obregón begets Vasconcelos; Vasconcelos begets La Secretaría de Educación Pública; Carranza begets humanitas).

However, the agrarian revolutions of the 1913-1920 period (for example, Zapatismo and Villismo) are of no account for Reyes, or, therefore, for the normal history of Mexico. They and their demands cannot be interiorized by that history and therefore cannot form part of the field of philological knowledge, even though he does acknowledge the presence of “dark forces” all around:

The most violent period of our struggles was approaching. Literary activity began to be an act of heroism. “It is consoling testimony”, Bergson would say to me in amazement, “to the possibility of the spirit in face of the dark forces of disorder”. Literature continued the best it could. In the worst years, from 1914 to 1916, editorial production in Mexico was overwhelming and superior to anything we had seen until that point.[69]

Reyes has decided on a state of exception in which Zapatismo and Villismo can only be included through a process of “euphemization” designed to guarantee their exclusion from the language of the normal history of Mexico. They are referred to not as named national realities but, more vaguely, as “the most violent period of our struggles”; “the dark forces of disorder”; “the worst years, from 1914 to 1916”. Amity’s opposite, the revolution of the homo barbarus, the inner darkness or defined exclusion within Reyes’ field of knowledge, is the nameless agrarian revolution that haunts and conditions fully his approach to, and recuperation of, the immediate past.

The agrarian revolutions of Zapata and Villa –uprisings that (in spite of Reyes’s active disavowal of their origins, complexity and fundamental importance for the history of Mexican state formation) bore witness more than any other movement to the forcible entry of the masses into the realm of sovereignty over their own destiny– are not normal. It is this abnormal history of Mexico –an abnormal history that raised its head again, let us not forget, in post-revolutionary Mexico largely as a result of the radical agrarian reforms of the Cárdenas regime in 1935 and 1936; the controversial and experimental nationalization of the oil industry in March, 1938; and the handing over of the railroads to the workers on May 1st, 1938 (to name just a few of the governmental experiments of those years)– that actually makes the law in, and establishes its rule over, the language and critical maneuvers contained in these essays.

In the second passage, which is taken from “Justo Sierra…”, the Revolution in its entirety is situated as the necessary exclusion upon which “normal” history –the history of political, philosophical and “spiritual” continuity between epochs separated by over thirty-five years of history (1902 to 1939)– should be construed: “It might be suggested that this history, suspended at the threshold of the Revolution, should be revised in light of the Revolution itself”.[70] The relation of the Revolution to the political evolution of the Mexican people should remain concealed, undisclosed and unexplained. It should remain therefore beyond our grasp and without truth for the present: captured, that is, but captured as without value for normal history. Reyes relinquishes its value therefore by preserving and maintaining it as valueless, worthless, invalid. This is not the ground for thought, however. Rather, it is the ground for an ideology based on willing (that is, subjectivizing) the history of the peasants and workers into silence.

In this sense Reyes’s essays reproduce the logic of expropriation, alienation and estrangement that lies at the heart of the primitive accumulation of capital, since his writings stockpile the social and anecdotal raw material for processing bourgeois friendship (humanitas) at all costs, over and against the violent histories of the displaced, exploited, and expropriated in modern Mexico. Quite literally, he would like to be able to narrate the poor out of cultural history in the name of a humanistic friendship synonymous with the social function of the master.

Therefore we can say that it is the history of the forcible entry of the masses into the realm of sovereignty that is the true secret of Reyes’s reality principle in “Pasado inmediato” and “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”. His is a reality principle that on the surface is grounded in the forging of amity’s absolute historical relation to education and the forging of Mexican humanitas. However, through the exposure of the exclusions of (or the “inner darkness” of history in) Reyes’s field of knowledge, we see that actually his reality principle –his humanitas– is grounded in the inscription of a class enmity that portrays the non-normal (homo barbarus: the specter of the potential dictatorship of the part of those who have no part) as the necessary beyond-of-amity.

Reyes would like the non-normal to be a historical silence in relation to which no “intelligent” word can be spoken. The irony is that he has to give language to the need for that erasure. As a result, he establishes a dictatorship of the absolute friend in opposition to the other potential dictatorship (that of the dark force of an emergent proletariat linked to the history of radical agrarianism), in which the latter must be declared nameless for the stability and continuity of nomic order. The other potential dictatorship –that of the part of those who have no part– can only be declared invalid by disavowal, “euphemization”, silence, and the active restoration of amity lines originating in the imperium of Porfirio Díaz. As such, these essays are predicated on the subsumption of enmity to the cause of mastery and friendship.

In spite of his pretensions, Reyes is far from being a Greek thinker and this simple fact determines everything in advance. If, as Octavio Paz affirms, in Reyes we see not only a critique but also a philosophy and ethic of language based in the transparency of the word and the universality of its meaning,[71] then we need to consider the fact that this is the ethic –the “just notion , the clear orientation”[72] – of a Latin-Romanic thinker of the truth of imperium, in which truth is grounded in the opposition between correctness and incorrectness, rather than in the essence of the Greek sense of “unconcealedness”. Heidegger explains imperium’s relation to the Roman sense of truth and falsity in terms that shed light on the essential imperialism of Reyes’ metaphysical ontology:

Why is the falsum, the “bringing to a fall”, essential for the Romans? The realm of essence decisive for the development of the Latin falsum is the one of the imperium and of the “imperial”. Imperium means “command”. Originally “command” meant the same as to “cover”: to “commit” (command) the dead to the earth or to the fire, to entrust them to a cover. On its way through the French language, “commend” became commandieren i.e., more precisely, the Latin imperareim-parare = to arrange, to take measures, i.e., prae-cipere, to occupy in advance, and so to take possession of the occupied territory and to rule it. Imperium is the territory founded in commandments, in which the others are obedient. Command, as the essential ground of domination, includes being-superior, which is only possible as the constant surmounting of others, who are thereby the inferiors. In this surmounting there resides again the constant ability to oversee. The surmounting overseeing denotes the dominating “sight” expressed in the often quoted phrase of Caeser: veni, vidi, vici: I came, I oversaw, and I conquered. The imperial actio of the constant surmounting of others includes the sense that the others, should they rise to the same or even to a neighboring level of command, will be brought down, in Latin fallere (participle: falsum). The great and most inner core of the essence of essential domination consists in this, that the dominated are not kept down, not simply despised, but, rather, that they themselves are permitted, within the territory of the command, to offer their services for the continuation of the domination. The bringing to a fall aims at keeping the overthrown standing in a certain sense, though not standing high.[73]

Both “Pasado inmediato” and “Justo Sierra…” are predicated on the production of an essential darkness –an internal obfuscation– that allows for a standing of enmity in a certain sense, though not for its standing high. As such, these essays are predicated on the historical subsumption and synthesis of enmity to the cause of friendship (which is the same here as the cause of the master): amity allows the excluded, within the territory of the command, to offer their services for the continuation of amity’s domination as long as the excluded remain excluded. Reason in Reyes is therefore the result of a normative task grounded in a metaphysic of free will that remains fully consonant with the workings of state rationalism. It is perfectly apt, then, that Enrique Krauze should open La presidencia imperialAscenso y caída del sistema político mexicano (1940-1996) in reference to, of all things, Alfonso Reyes’s “Pasado inmediato”. However, he treats Reyes’s essay as if it were a work of historical precision, rather than an ideological wager for the humanist policing of modern cultural and institutional history.

Reyes’s language restitutes for the present the notion of the educated master/friend (humanitas) as a defense (or autoimmunity) anchored ultimately in bourgeois fear of the uncultured masses (homo barbarus as the hostis of Mexico’s “normal” history). This is a defense that is predicated on the restoration of history as a police project to seal off the past that gave body to the subjectification of the part of those who had no part (for example, 1913-1920; 1934-1939 among others). It is an autoimmunity anchored in the capture and displacement of those who made themselves into speaking beings through, as a result, and in spite of, the violent history of primitive accumulation from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Reyes’s philological writings on the immediate past cannot be separated from the underlying conditions of land-appropriation and the social order that perpetuates and institutionalizes that original act of expropriation. Carl Schmitt explains the idea of nomos in the following terms: “Nomos is the immediate form in which the political and social order of a people becomes spatially visible –the initial measure and division of pastureland, i.e., the land-appropriation as well as the concrete order contained in it and following from it. In Kant’s words, it is the ‘distributive law of mine and thine’”.[74] The truth of Reyes’s essays cannot be considered without reference to the notion of nomos, in its relation to a sovereign will that is exercised in conjunction, and in agreement, with the history and law of on-going primitive accumulation in modern Mexico.

In “The Origin of the Work of Art” Martin Heidegger asks how the “happening of truth” makes itself visible in (the work of) the work of art. In similar fashion, I have traced in these pages the way in which the “happening of truth” sets itself up, and extends itself, through “Pasado inmediato” and “Justo Sierra y la historia patria” in the final months of the Cárdenas sexenio. Reyes obviously wants to guide his readers toward, and to have them gather themselves around –that is, to commune in the sweetness and light of–, a fully harmonious notion of humanistic culture over and against any inferior, abnormal, “dark” or potentially conflictive form of historical being. The affirmation and restoration of the function of the master-friend is the primary conduit for giving history its visibility –its definitive perspective– and for affording Mexico the opportunity to gain a specific (cultured, bourgeois) outlook on itself (thereby rendering the immediate past a “defined past” anchored fully in humanitas, rather than in exploitation or the misery and frustration of the poor).

Every word in these essays therefore “fights the battle and puts up for decision what is… lofty and what flighty, what master and what slave”.[75] What is masterful and lofty is the ability of the lettered intellectual to forge the agreement and conformity of knowledge with fact and of fact with knowledge, in order to make subjectivity and thought equal to life, as Reyes himself suggests. This requires, however, the continual surmounting of that which is neither masterful nor lofty (incorrect, false, abnormal, peasant history) within the given field of knowledge. In this surmounting there resides the constant need to oversee. This act of overseeing that produces the terrain and regime of the visible is the imperial actio that conveys the sense that the others –the part of those who have no part– “should they rise to the same or even to a neighboring level of command, will be brought down, in Latin fallere (participle: falsum)”.[76]

There can be little doubt that this bringing about of a downfall –which is the necessary counter-essence for the truth (verum, “being-above”; veritasrectitudo, “correctness”) of the Latin-Romanic imperium– sustains the ethical ground of Alfonso Reyes’s bourgeois politics of philology in the final months of the Cárdenas regime. We can certainly consider Reyes to be a thinker of the post-revolutionary aesthetic and pedagogical (that is, “ethical”) state in modern Mexico. However, we can only consider him to be so in a political manner if we read him as a creator and purveyor of the ideology and law of bourgeois imperium and its sovereign will.

As is evident in Alfonso Reyes’s “Pasado inmediato” and “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, in the cultural sphere the friend/enemy division has been crucial to the invention of a bourgeois state grounded in a master ethic of friendship that surmounts, captures, and oversees the “abnormal” grounds and contingencies of perceived enmity. This maneuver regulates and naturalizes the history of the nomos and captures historical difference (other ways of life) as the necessarily included yet displaced and silenced other –or inner darkness– of bourgeois humanitas. As such, in the name of universal humanism Reyes makes a sovereign decision regarding the point at which universal humanism, in the interest of certainty (and therefore truth), can only continue to exist by suspending its universal applicability. Therefore Reyes’s philological humanism represents a method of thinking that is not only contradictory. It is absolutely crucial for understanding the bourgeois struggle for the right to the (aesthetic, cultural, and political) state of exception.


01. Carlos Monsiváis, “La toma de partido de Alfonso Reyes”, in Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica, vol. 37, num. 2, México, UAEMEX, 1989, pp.510.

02. Martin Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism’”, in Pathmarks, William McNeill (edit.), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 244.

03. Idem.

04. Idem.

05. For the relation of “just war” to Spanish ideas on conquest and settlement, see Anthony Pagden, Lords of All the World Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c. 1500-c.1800. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1995, pp. 91-102.

06. See Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, G.L. Ulmen (trans.), New York, Telos Press, 2003, pp. 102-103.

07. Carl Shmitt, ibid., pp 111-2.

08. Ibid., p. 78.

09. Ibid., pp. 27-28.

10. Carlos Monsiváis, “La toma de partido de Alfonso Reyes”, op. cit.

11. Amity lines were legal spatial divisions designed to distribute and rationalize relations among (European) powers, with a view to ordering the land and sea-appropriation of the Indias Occidentales. The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, G.L. Ulmen (trans.), New York, Telos Press, 2003, pp. 92-99. My use of the term is predominantly temporal and intellectual, rather than spatial and geopolitical. However, as my reading of Reyes’s essays shows, his establishment of genealogical friendship networks or amity lines is not unrelated to the history of the nomic appropriation of the land. I am using the term “master function” as it appears in Jacques Lacan and as it is taken up in Alberto Moreiras’ reading of Donoso Cortés and the origins of modern Spanish reactionary thinking. Lacan notes that the nineteenth century can be defined “in terms of a radical decline of the function of the master”, since Hegel “turns him into the great dupe, the magnificent cuckold of historical development, given that the virtue of progress passes by way of the vanquished, which is to say, of the slave, and his work”. Jacques Lacan, The Seminars of Jacques Lacan. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960, Jacques-Alain Miller (ed.) Dennis Porter (trans.). New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 1992.Hegelianism is the fiction of the Aristotelian master in its negation (see Alberto Moreiras, “Spanish Reactionary Thinking: An Introduction”, in Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, vol. 5 num. 2, July 2004, p. 125).Alfonso Reyes’ essays are a response to the decline in the function of the master, an attempt to turn the clock back on Hegel and his philosophical, historical and political legacies.

12. Alfonso Reyes “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, in Pasado inmediato y otros ensayos, México, Fondo de Cultura Económica/El Colegio de México, 1941, p. 142.

13. Alfonso Reyes, “Pasado inmediato”, in Pasado inmediato y otros ensayos. México, Fondo de Cultura Económica/El Colegio de México, 1941, p. 25.

14. See Barry Carr, Marxism and Communism in Twentieth-Century Mexico, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1992, pp. 47-48. Also see José Revueltas, “La independencia nacional, un proceso en marcha”, in Ensayos sobre México, México, Ediciones Era, 1985, pp. 77-78.

15. Adolfo Gilly, El cardenismo: Una utopía mexicana, México, Ediciones Era, 2001, p. 352.

16. Ibid., p. 342.

17. Leon Trotsky in Adolfo Gilly, El cardenismo: Una utopía mexicana, México, Ediciones Era, 2001, p. 343.

18. Adolfo Gilly, op. cit, p. 351.

19. Louis Althusser, Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster, New York, Verso, 1999, p. 25.

20. Idem.

21. Ibid., p. 26.

22. Alfonso Reyes, “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, in op. cit., p. 161.

23. Alfonso Reyes, “Pasado inmediato”, in op cit., pp. 3-4.

24. Ibid., p. 3.

25. Ibid., pp. 8-10.

26. Ibid., p. 13.

27. Ibid., p. 15.

28. Ibid., p. 16.

29. Ibid., p. 17.

30. Ibid., p. 19.

31. Ibid., p. 20.

32. Ibid., pp. 25-30.

33. Ibid., pp. 30-32.

34. Ibid., p. 33.

35. Ibid., pp. 34-35.

36. Ibid., pp. 39-41.

37. Ibid., p. 43.

38. Ibid., pp. 44-48.

39. Ibid., p. 47.

40. Ibid., pp. 49-50.

41. Ibid., p. 51.

42. Ibid., pp. 55-56.

43. Ibid., pp. 58-59.

44. Ibid., p. 61.

45. Ibid., p. 62.

46. Idem.

47. Ibid., p. 63.

48. Ibid., p. 64.

49. Boulainvillier in Michel Foucault, “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-1976, New York: Picador, 2003, p. 155.

50. See William Spanos, America’s Shadow: An Anatomy of Empire, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2000, p. 16.

51. Alfonso Reyes, “Pasado inmediato”, in op. cit., p. 17.

52. Ibid., p. 23.

53. Ibid., p. 24.

54. Alfonso Reyes, “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, in op. cit., p. 141.

55. Ibid., p. 142.

56. Ibid., p. 147.

57. Ibid., p. 156.

58. Ibid., p. 157.

59. Idem.

60. Ibid., p. 161.

61. Ibid., pp. 163-164.

62. Ibid., p. 164.

63. Ibid., pp. 395-396, italics mine.

64. Ibid., p. 161.

65. Louis Althusser, op. cit., p. 25.

66. Ibid., p. 26.

67. Alfonso Reyes, “Pasado inmediato”, in op. cit., p. 63.

68. Alfonso Reyes, “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, in op. cit.,pp. 163-164.

69. Alfonso Reyes, “Pasado inmediato”, in op. cit., pp. 62-63.

70. Alfonso Reyes, “Justo Sierra y la historia patria”, in op. cit., p. 163.

71. Ibid., p. 147.

72. Pedro Henríquez Ureña, “Alfonso Reyes”, in La utopía de América, Angel Rama and Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot (edits.) Caracas, Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989, p. 390.

73. Martin Heiddegger, op. cit., pp. 40-45.

74. Carl Shmitt, op. cit., p. 70.

75. Martin Heidgger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”, in Poetry, Language, Thought, Albert Hofstadter (trans. and intro.), New York, Harper & Row, 1975, p. 43

76. Martin Heidegger, Parmenides, André Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz (trans.), Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1998, p. 45.

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