The Impossible Possible Past of Peronism in Argentina

In Eric Santner’s The Royal Remains he writes, “In order to overcome the chronic threat to life represented by the conflicts among men, generated, as Hobbes sees it, by the natural liberty each man by nature enjoys to preserve his life by any means necessary and to pursue the dictates of his needs and desires, men establish the artifice of the sovereign ruler who thereby becomes delegated with the task of immunizing the group against internal and external threats.  As Esposito puts it, ‘in order to save itself, life needs to step out from itself and constitute a transcendental point from which it receives orders and shelter’ (17, Santner).  Santner here is writing about Esposito’s ‘immunological paradigm’ where the sovereign’s protection of life turns against itself, and moves in the direction of taking life in order to protect it.  Santner is arguing for a remainder that this dialectic is unable to absorb, a dark remainder or an unfathomable X which takes on the figure of ‘flesh’.  This transcendental point Esposito wrote about in order for life to step out of itself has historically been provided by the sovereign who makes exceptions to the rule of law. The rule of law in a suspended state often relies on a charismatic messianic figure who has an ethical duty to protect the people.  It was this along with a country in economic downturn that resulted in the military rule of Juan Peron in Argentina.peron

Juan Peron was delegated as the sovereign ruler with a strong nationalistic military presence.  Neither a communist nor a capitalist Peron was seeking a “third position” which again tried to escape the ‘immunitarian dialectic’ of Esposito.  Here Peron writes his goals of his ‘third position’:

We do not support either the worker against sound capitalism, or monopolies against the working class; rather we favor solutions equally beneficial to the workers and to commerce and industry, because our only interest is in the welfare of our fatherland (116, Whitaker)

Peron’s language was mythological in that he believed in the ‘evolution of humankind’ where the constant extremes of freedom and state authority rocked back and forth.  As Donald Hodges puts it so well in his excellent study Argentina’s “Dirty War”, ‘Peron interpreted this shift from individualism to statism as a movement from political left to right.  But because statism is at the opposite extreme from individualism, it, too, is unsuited to a condition of equilibrium’ (48, Hodges)  And in ‘immunitarian’ language he writes, “Without capitalism, communism would have no reason to exist”.

Peron’s ideas behind the evolution of history seems to have come from Mussolini’s 1932 Doctrine of Fascism.  Mussolini like Peron believed that Liberalism (not the United States perversion of the word) lead countries to ruin and believed that individualism would be taken over by ‘collectivism’ and the 20th century would be a century of the ‘Right’ (Hodges)  Peron wanted to dismantle the oligarchy and establish a people’s democracy where social justice was the intended goal.   

To this day people are divided in Argentina about Peron’s project, but here Hodges writes:

Peron anticipated that giving the people what they wanted would bring social peace and end to the military era.  But his reforms crated a vacuum of power and a climate of insecurity in which human lives as well as properties were threatened.  As a result, Peronism brought on massive intervention by the armed forces.  Instead of ending the military era, it reinforced the military’s resolve to stop the Peronist steamroller in its tracks

Georges Sorel in his Reflections on Violence wrote that a revolutionary myth is a complex of symbols that predisposes us to act, that evokes the impulse to struggle and inspires us to fight.  It was Guy Debord who understood that the spectacle of our world is the linguistic nature of the animal with not only voice but a phantasmic ordering of representation.  Our fetishistic understanding moves us into believing that the King still rules at the right hand of God the father even if we all know that God has died and we always kill him.

Some References I used:

Agamben, Giorgio The Coming Community

Hodges, Donald Argentina’s “Dirty War”

Santner, Eric The Royal Remains

Esposito, Roberto Third Person, Immunitas

Whitaker, Arthur Argentina

About specularimage

Scott Maxwell is a cultural critic, social theorist and creative historian interested in : Psychoanalysis, Biopower and Biophilosophies, Romance philology, Religion and Theology, interested in living philosphers/thinkers Agamben, Zizek, Badiou, Malabou, Johnston. Past thinkers: Foucault, Heidegger, Marx, etc.
This entry was posted in Latin America, Political Theory, Roberto Esposito and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Impossible Possible Past of Peronism in Argentina

  1. This was quite wonderful Scott so thank you.Yes it felt right.

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