Online Journal of Anthropology

Murillo Colonizar el DolorTitle: Colonizar el Dolor: la interpelación ideológica del Banco Mundial en América Latina: el caso argentino desde Blumberg a Cromañón
Author: Murillo Susana
Pages: 364
Year: 2008
Publisher: CLACSO (Buenos Aires)
Print ISBN: 978-987118390-6









Susana Murillo, important Argentinean philosopher and sociologist presents his book Colonizing the Suffering where she examines painstakingly how the ideology is built by intervention of international financial-led organisms as World Bank and IMF. The financial hegemony of centre is granted by the loans that caused a great economic dependency. To accelerate the colonization, these organisms draw an ideology, disseminated by the media that points out on the corruption of state, its decline, or even its impossibility to protect the common-interests. Because of the failures of neo-liberalism to promote adjustments in Latin American states, during 90s decade, the disciplinary control have changed to a new discourse.

Now, industrial powers introduce a new need which consists to place citizenry over the sate. That way, elite constitutes disciplinary instrument of control that moulds not only public opinion but also social consciousness. These types of ideologies generate a great sentiment of distrust accompanied with a broad sentiment of abandonment that citizenry faces.

After the revolt that precipitated the exile of Fernando De la Rua, former president, neoliberals have changed their tactics devoting resources and efforts to convince lay people the justice and executive powers have being corrupted. This crisis inflicts a climate of uncertainty leading people to discredit the politic fields. As the previous argument given, Murillo says that the last bloody dictatorship in Argentina from 1976/82 created a consensus by apathy. This discourse emphasized on the fact that being active in politics was a dangerous thing. Since military-forced sustained its coup arguing the needs of a community restoration, which should fight against the communist threat.

The mythical archetype of a founding community was based on an urgency to explain the context whereby the use of violence and coercion. Officials envisaged that the social pathologies (as local crime or homeland subversion) would be fixed only if we return to a pristine ideal of community. In this token, Murillo adds, the sense of vulnerability paves the ways for the advent of ideology. The figure of corruption played a pivotal role so that intellectuals who drew the Washington’s consensus to stipulate the belief that state should be disarticulated. Based on inefficacy and corruption, neoliberals explained with some detail on the importance of introducing the market-stricken logic in public affair. This changed the old paradigm proposed by contractual philosophers who considered the public life in basis of a law that should protect to everyone, without exception.

The egalitarian nature of citizens before the law depended not only on the state but also to the sense of sovereignty (well being paradigm). The climate of flexibility introduced by global economic powers generated a neo-decisionism where the exception makes the law. Starting from the premise, the military coups, which years ago were conducive to the struggle of crime and subversion, were discredited by public opinion; the only solution was a radical change in the way the society is structured. State started to be criticized and questioned by ONGS as well as other pressure groups.

The degree of uncertainty that today people experience is sublimated by means of the restoration of mythical community, thinking that only crime should be resolved by the employment of violence. Murillo insists that ideology does not rest on the idea of a false-consciousness, as it was historically postulated by first Marxists, but in a text, a narrative tailored to what humans need. The lack poses the legitimacy on politician and its decision re-creates the exception.

If Ideology serves as a catalyst to control the archetype of death, what is important to debate here is to what an extent, the power relationships are determined by our innate fear to death. As noted, Washington’s consensus was efficient because it combined bloody dictatorship that disarmed worker union and political dissidents, with corporative democracies that stimulated the mass consumption in the world. In Latin America, the consensus by apathy, a neologism invented by Murillo, resulted from the disappearance of psychical bodies in the dictatorship but remained even when democracy returned. If the sentiment of panic that caused the hostage of citizens was sublimated by means of indifference, the failures of democracies to boost local economies not only put people to the utopia but promoted theories and pseudo-scientific studies to dismantle the tutelage of state.

As this backdrop, Murillo, throughout this fascinating book, acknowledges that the imperial powers and their financial organization loans played a vital role disciplining the peripheral states creating cultural changes to the extent to accept the poverty as a natural outcome of industrialization and progress. If poverty for medieval imaginary was the home of Christ, for modernist thought became in the necessary condition of life.

Naturalizing the economic asymmetries, proper of capitalism, neo-decisionism proclaims the social difference among human beings should be mitigated to avoid the social conflicts, but not eradicated. The industrial powers which maintain the hegemony over the periphery have changed their disciplinary mechanism of control. Particularly, the violence exerted in 70s decades set the pace to new friendly ways of indoctrination negotiated with citizenry into a new paradigm, the socio-technical view. One of the aspects that characterizes the socio-technical paradigm seems to be associated to skill-training guides that priory efficacy over others values. The well-being and mobility are for neoliberals the stepping stones of these new corporative democracies.

Unlike other moments where violence pivoted the agenda in Latin America, financial elite realized that repression is limited to ensure political stability. Therefore, the social conflict should be commoditized in forms of new policies, which give origin to neoliberal theories. The economic catastrophe that whipped the economies of Latin American countries ushered World Bank to change the tactic. From 2001 onwards, to set an example, in Argentina the doctrine of accountability of state whereby officials should be claimed or charged by the citizenry was based on the needs to fight against corruption, homeland safety and poverty.

These have been the chief themes of mass media that stimulated a hot debate even in the academician fields. From Blumberg’s case to Cromañón, Murillo adds, the civil ONGs were aimed at confronting public wisdom against governments. In order for readers to understand better, it is important to mention Axel Blumberg, a young, was killed in a confusing episode when kidnappers interpreted his father called to police. Rather, Cromañón was the name of stadium where died 194 civilians because of a fire. Both were events that shocked to public opinion and mobilized the social protest against the government of N. Kirchner and A. Ibarra.

The claim was the epicentre by means people connect each other. The discourse of safety is conducive to the economic monopolies that bring to the present time the ideal of lost community. As a result, the thesis of this pungent book is that the moral need of urgency that interpelates the politics to administrate the suffering of citizens as centuries before, but from the production of victims. To here, we have described Murillo´s argument as closely as possible. It is important not to loose the sight the deepness of this work allows expanding the existent understand of how the political claims is elaborated by the victims of made-man disasters, or even the criminalization of certain minorities. The contributions of this book are in the following lines:

  1. Ideology should be understood as a catalyst instrument to mediate between self and its death.
  2. The social imaginary is determined by past experience which not only contributes to create an archetype, but also give response to community in context of uncertainty.
  3. Military coups in Argentina changed the ways of perceiving the politics forever. To mitigate the uncertainty lay people faced because of the physical disappearance of citizens which by state did not give any clear explanation, it was created “a sentiment of apathy for everything that means being active in politics”.
  4. The sense of restored community explains at least why people ask state for more violence and repression for criminals as well as how the sense of security is often manipulated by the mass media.

However, her main argument rests on one main fallacy which should be revisited. The present critical book review, we have to clarify, does not correspond with a criticism to Murillo´s account itself, but a way of thinking founded in Latin America’s intelligentsia. The reason of state was historically for Latin American scholars a last shelter before the advance of industrialism/capitalism. In order to present a convincing defence on this thesis, as Fillipi documented, it is necessary to adopt a biased view of Marxist theories where state is equalled to politics (Fillipi, 1988).

Any criticism beyond the hegemony of state entails, for this viewpoint, the end of politics. Any pressure group which promotes an atmosphere of conflict against the state is viewed as a group that denies the nature of politics. Pro status quo, neo Marxists in Latin America understand that states should monopolize the usufruct of politics and public space. At some extent, it is important not to loose the sight that any state is only a form of organization that does not define what the politic is. There are many forms of living the politics beyond the paradigm of nation-state (Balandier, 2004). This incorrect belief was provided by the first phisiocrats who proclaimed that law was the only way of achieving the happiness for all. But in doing so, the market should be strictly monitored. Following this explanation, even Weber whose works are widely cited by these scholars, has said that capitalism is not based on gains or profits but in a cultural value enrooted in the rationale and control. The burocratic logic overweighed over traditional and charismatic ones.

Although Weber clarifies, these logics are alternated in human institutions according to the economic contexts, it is clear how capitalism as social construal, surfaced from protestant ethos. Capitalism has been expanded to all institutions denoting that the sense of control was determined by the logic of means-and-goals. Even if money was important for the genesis of capitalism, it was not the only condition for that. This means that state for Weber plays the similar role than market disciplining individual minds to live according to capitalist values. Not only irreversible but also impossible to break, as an iron cage, capitalism recreates its own conditions of existence beyond the human intervention. State is not a shelter, state is, even as Foucault (who is profusely cited by Murillo) put it, the bulldozer of market (economy of truth) (Foucault, 2006).

From the legal jurisprudence granted by the interpretation of an abstract text as constitution, towards the laws are oriented to protect the interests of capital-owners, state monopolize the use of force to be exerted over bodies whenever the hegemony of capitalism is being defied. As the previous argument given, Murillo´s text should be reconsidered according to the dogmatism of her own account. Closed into the vicious circle of precluding liberal ideology shapes the social protest in Argentina against state, and for that any protest should be typified as a result of ideological forces.

That way, what begins to be a book supposedly oriented to understand the psychological reaction of those who have experienced a lost, is at least a treatise to justify the decline of state. At time of posing the questions that illuminated her research, she (Murillo) has the answer. Besides, to understand victims of disasters, whatever the causes may be, are puppets of World Bank or agents moved by ideological fantasies are as dangerous as false. State corresponds with a design framed to grant the expansion of capitalism and the subordination of agrarian economies. Murillo simply ignores how capitalism has been embedded not only in the work-force or owner-driven conflict, but in the cultural values of west. Market and state are the two side of the same coin. At the bottom, the capitalist ethos is always accepted because the burocratic logic is never questioned.


Balandier, G. 2004. Antropología Política. Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Sol.
Fillipi, Alberto. 1988. Instituciones e Ideologías en la Independencia Hispano-americana. Buenos Aires: Alianza Editorial
Foucault, M. 2006. Seguridad, Territorio, Población: curso en el Collage de France (1977-1978). Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Reviewed by: Maximiliano E. Korstanje
Philosophical Society of England, UK
International Society for Philosophers, Sheffield, UK
University of Palermo
Buenos Aires, Argentina,





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