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Positivism in Mexico

Positivism in Mexico

Leopoldo Zea traces the forerunners of Mexican liberal thought and their influence during Juárez’s time and shows how this ideology degenerated into an “order and progress” philosophy that served merely to maintain colonial forms of exploitation.

January 1974
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266 pages | 6 x 9 |

Positivism, not just an “ivory tower” philosophy, was a major force in the social, political, and educational life of Mexico during the last half of the nineteenth century. Once colonial conservatism had been conquered, the French Intervention ended, and Maximilian of Hapsburg executed, reformers wanted to create a new national order to replace the Spanish colonial one. The victorious liberals strove to achieve “mental emancipation,” a kind of second independence, which would abolish the habits and customs imposed on Mexicans by three centuries of colonialism.

At this singular moment in Mexican history, positivism was offered as an extraordinary means and pathway to a new order. The next stage was the education of the Mexican people in this liberal philosophy and their incorporation into the process of development achieved by modern nations.

Leopoldo Zea traces the forerunners of liberal thought and their influence during Juárez’s time and shows how this ideology degenerated into an “order and progress” philosophy that served merely to maintain colonial forms of exploitation and, at the same time, to create new ones that were peculiar to the neocolonialism that the great nations of the world imposed on other peoples. Zea examines the regime of Porfirio Díaz and its justification by the positivist philosophers of the period. He concludes that the conflict between exploited social groups, on the one hand, and foreign interests and a middle class on the margin of an oligarchy, on the other, brought about the movement known as the Mexican Revolution.

  • Preface to the English Translation
  • Introduction
    • I. Philosophy and Its History
      • 1. The Problem
      • 2. Ideas about the History of Philosophy
      • 3. Absolute and Circumstantial Truths
      • 4. The Historical Method in Philosophy
    • II. Positivism in Mexican Circumstances
      • 5. The Mexican Interpretations of Positivism
      • 6. The Positivist Generation
      • 7. Mexican Positivists Defend Their Doctrine
      • 8. The Interpretation Pursued in This Study
    • III. The Positivism of Auguste Comte
      • 9. Comtism as the Expression of a Social Class
      • 10. Order and Liberty
      • 11. The New Order According to the Philosophy of Comte
      • 12. The Ideal of Comtian Philosophy
    • IV. Mexican Positivism
      • 13. Mexican Positivism as the Expression of a Social Group
      • 14. Elements of Disorder in Mexican Society
      • 15. The Law of the Three Phases of Mexican Positivism
      • 16. The Plan of This Work
  • Section One: The Birth
    • I. The Positivist Interpretation of Mexican History
      • 17. The Road Toward Emancipation
      • 18. Mexico as a Link in the Mental Emancipation of Humanity
      • 19. The Struggle between the Negative and Positive Forces in Mexico
      • 20. Mexico, Last Bastion of the Positive Spirit or of Progress
    • II. Historical Circumstances in Mexico, 1867
      • 21. The Triumph of the Mexican Liberal Party
      • 22. The Basis for the Establishment of Order
      • 23. Application of the Positivist Doctrine to the Historical Circumstances of 1867
      • 24. The Adaptation of the Positivist Doctrine to the Religious Policy of the Juárez Government
  • Section Two: The Origins
    • I. The Forces of Progress and Reaction
      • 25. The Liberal Antecedent of Mexican Positivism
      • 26. The Forces of Reaction
      • 27. Clerical and Military Interests
      • 28. Civic Interests
    • II. Mexican Liberalism’s Ideals of Education and Government
      • 29. Education as a Class Instrument
      • 30. Relations between the State and the Citizens
      • 31. The State as an Instrument of a Faction and as an Instrument of Society
      • 32. The State as the Guardian of Public Order
    • III. The Ideology of the Mexican Bourgeoisie in Its Combative Phase
      • 33. “Liberty,” a Concept in the Service of a Social Class
      • 34. Persuasion as an Ideological Tool of the Mexican Bourgeoisie
      • 35. Respect for Ideas
      • 36. The Thesis concerning the Rights of Others
  • Section Three: The Development, “Gabino Barreda”
    • I. Gabino Barreda and the Problem of Freedom
      • 37. Freedom as an Individual Right
      • 38. Freedom within the Positivist Order
    • II. Barreda’s Defense of the Interests of the Mexican Bourgeoisie
      • 39. The Defense of Catholicism against Jacobinism
      • 40. The Defense of Private Property
      • 41. Noninterference of the State in Private Property
      • 42. The Justification of Barreda’s Ideas within the Mexican Reality of His Time
    • III. Gabino Barreda’s Plan of Education
      • 43. The Plan of Education Proposed by Barreda
      • 44. Uniformity of Thought as a Basis for the Protection of the Social Order
      • 45. Compulsory Education
      • 46. Education as a Means to Avoid Social Anarchy
      • 47. Jacobinism Considered by Barreda as the Chief Enemy of His Plan of Education
    • IV. Barreda’s Defense of His Plan of Education
      • 48. Attacks on Barreda’s Plan of Education
      • 49. The New Plan of Public Education and Its Criticisms
      • 50. The Defense of Spiritual Power against Civil Power
  • Section Four: The Development, “The Disciples”
    • I. The Positivists and the Construction of the New Order
      • 51. The Foundation of the Asociación Metodófila
      • 52. A Feeling of Crisis in Barreda’s Followers
      • 53. The Rigor of the Positivist Method and What the Followers of Barreda Expected from Such Rigor
    • II. The Application of the Positivist Method
      • 54. The Application of the Positivist Method to Philosophical Problems
      • 55. The Strict Application of the Positivist Method Independent of Emotion and Sympathy
    • III. The Theory of Some Positivists concerning the Social Order
      • 56. The Relationship between Superiors and Inferiors
      • 57. The Relationship between Rich and Poor
      • 58. The Relationship between Intellectual Superiors and Intellectual Inferiors
      • 59. The Relationship between Sociology and Biology
      • 60. The Application of Social Science to Social Problems
      • 61. Positivism as the Justification for a Class Ideology
    • IV. The Creation of the Social Order
      • 62. The Social Consequences of Barreda’s Work
      • 63. The Meaning of Order to the Generation Educated by Barreda
      • 64. The Social Order that Resulted from the Educational Work of Barreda
      • 65. The Order of the Mexican Bourgeoisie
  • Section Five: The Utopia
    • I. Freedom of Conscience and Positivism
      • 66. The Unconstitutionality of Positivist Education
      • 67. Defense of the Constitutionality of Positivist Education
      • 68. Freedom of Conscience Cannot Be Opposed to Social Order
      • 69. The Enemies of Positivist Education
    • II. The Ideal of a New Positivist Spiritual Power
      • 70. Society’s Ideal of Accord among All Members of Society
      • 71. Social Enforcement of the Principles of Positivism
      • 72. The New Spiritual Power
      • 73. Spiritual Power Cannot Be Neutral
    • III. The Struggle for Spiritual Power
      • 74. National Preparatory School Education Considered as Sectarian
      • 75. The Clergy and Freedom of Conscience
      • 76. Defense of the Social Validity of Positivism
      • 77. The Utopia of the Mexican Positivists
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Leopoldo Zea (1912–2004) was the director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the National University of Mexico.