THE INVENTION OF THE AMERICAS by Enrique Dussel

THE INVENTION OF THE AMERICAS

Eclipse of 'the Other' and the Myth of Modernity

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A tendentious postmodern critique of modernity and the European colonization of the New World. Dussel (Philosophy/Universidad Aut¢nomo, Mexico) argues that modernity began in 1492 when Europe changed from a small cluster of semicivilized states hemmed in by the Muslim nations to a world center``a new discovering universality.'' To accompany this new global perspective, a ``myth'' of modernity was created, one that permitted any measure of European barbarity as long as it was in the name of civilization. Thus, what Dussel sees as the valuable side of modernity, its liberating potential, is a smoke screen for exploitation and that old naughty vampire, capital. From Foucault to the Frankfurt School, this is a familiar, even overly familiar, argument. Dussel's specific thesis could have been neatly wrapped up into an article, but as a book, it is hopelessly padded, as well as riven through with unnecessary academic jargon: ``Modernity will come into its fullness...by surpassing itself through a corealization with its once negated alterity and through a process of mutual, creative fecundation.'' Dussel also does disservice to his argument with his tendency toward hyperbole and ideological one-sidedness. He seems to believe that exploitation is largely a modern invention and that pre-Columbian America was an innocent Eden. There is little weight given, for example, to the fact that the Aztec Empire was a hegemonic, exploitative aristocracy. One of the main reasons it fell so easily was not, as Dussel holds, that CortÇs was thought to be a god, but that subject tribes were all too eager to ally with the Spanish and free themselves from Aztec oppression. Also for someone so Eurocritical, Dussel's argument, from his concept of modernity as liberating on, is shot through with Eurocentrism. A windy and tiresome second-hand jeremiad. (charts, maps)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8264-0796-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Continuum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1995