Existing historiography of Latin America has highlighted the role of liberalism in the 19th century formation of modern states, but it is typically viewed as historically discontinuous with the subsequent violence of the 20th century. Narrowing the focus to Argentina, we see historians like Jeremy Adelman asserting that the promise and successes of the early liberal republics were historically isolated from the brutal military rule that would emerge following the Peronist era. More intellectual histories of Argentina like David Rock's Authoritarian Argentina also focus on the prominence of conservative nationalists in this period of violence. Incorporating the work of the Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben, I argue that embedded within the legal and practical framework of Argentine liberalism is the possibility of a “state of exception”, wherein the sovereign body suspends the law in the name of saving it.
The purpose of applying the theoretical lens of Agamben's work to Argentina's politics are twofold. The first is to overcome the idea that the development of liberalism in Argentina and the extra-juridical violence that succeeded it are historically discreet phenomena. The two share a connective tissue, as described in the work of Agamben, and the same laws that brought the liberal “public sphere” into being also simultaneously demarcated an illegible outside, producing beings outside the law. The second is the issue of how we as historians bear witness to an event like the disappearances and murders of political dissidents, as detailed in the government report Nunca Mas. Looking at that extra-juridical violence as an aberration outside of the arch of “historical progress” not only denies those affected a voice, but also crucially cedes a portion of the political realm of memory to the same ideas that helped formulate the “state of exception”.
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"“You Cannot Slaughter Ideas”: Liberalism and the State of Exception in Argentina,"
disClosure: A Journal of Social Theory: Vol. 29, Article 4.
Available at: https://uknowledge.uky.edu/disclosure/vol29/iss1/4