A Century of Latin American Thought

A Century of Latin American Thought

A Century of Latin American Thought

A Century of Latin American Thought

Excerpt

IN THE FLURRY of recent inter-American cultural developments our interest and our knowledge have remained curiously spotty. The wisest observer of these developments has remarked our deficiencies in the fields of economics and sociology, and the scantiness of materials on Latin-American art and music. To these we should like to add another. Not to know the men of ideas of Latin America is particularly unfortunate. Honest introspection will convince the average educated North American -- not the specialist, for whom this book is not intended -- that the names of Latin-American thinkers are hardly even names to him.

No countries attach more importance to their intellectual élite than do the Latin-American republics. It is as natural for them to have confidence in the great figures in whom their culture has flowered as it is for us to rely proudly on the machine which is the symbol of our civilization. Even those whose official Marxism would seem to require giving primacy to the economic factor impress the outsider as being first of all believers in the power of the idea. This statement does not imply that the ideas we shall study have shaped practical politics or that they are universally accepted -- the wide differences among them would alone prevent that -- or that they are even continentally known.

There is no surer way to reach the heart and soul of a culture than to know the men whom it calls great, and to determine whether they represent something distinctive in their culture.

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