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Please consider using the resources attached underneath each question to answer the
question in full!
1. In less than 100 words, comment on some interesting, recent, or curious border conflict for you.
It can be from the country that you´re specializing in or any other country in the Latin American
region. If you find, attach a map and the sources of your finding.
For answering it discuss: Dormant Dispute over Border between Uruguay and Brazil
2. Independence processes are central to the creation of national identities and political myths.
This week, look at the independence of your country and summarize this process in approx. 350
words. Consider these three main questions as a guide: A. Who are the people who led it? There is a “founding father”?
B. What are the main conflicts/situations during the independence process?
C. Which key institutions emerge? Do not restrain yourself to constitutional institutions, also
check if some academic, religious, military, cultural, or political institution, like parties,
universities, or national theater, were created during the independence process.
For answering it check attached reference: Brazilian formal independence and the problem
of Eurocentrism in international historical sociology
Also, check the following link:
3. The cases of Cuba, Brazil, or Mexico (the three proposed study cases for this week) show how
emancipatory changes had different ways to happen. Whichever case you selected, Describe the
cultural and political tensions between the “liberal” and the “conservative” sides on the conflict.
Please, not just summarize the main elements of the selected conflict, instead interpret the
evidence that you have in the paper using the ideas described by Chasteen´s chapter. In that
process, identify key actors and their ideas, which institutions are in dispute, and how the
author´s argument describes a socio-cultural transformation that the people´s in these
countries lived. (800 words)
For answering it use the attached reference: Coffee planters, politics, and development in Brazil.
Latin American Research Review, 22(3), 69-90
Also, check the following link:
Cambridge Review of International Affairs
ISSN: 0955-7571 (Print) 1474-449X (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ccam20
Agency and geopolitics: Brazilian formal
independence and the problem of Eurocentrism in
international historical sociology
To cite this article: Pedro Salgado (2019): Agency and geopolitics: Brazilian formal independence
and the problem of Eurocentrism in international historical sociology, Cambridge Review of
International Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/09557571.2019.1638343
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/09557571.2019.1638343
Published online: 22 Jul 2019.
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Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 2019
Vol. 0, No. 0, 1–20, https://doi.org/10.1080/09557571.2019.1638343
Agency and geopolitics: Brazilian formal independence
and the problem of Eurocentrism in international
Federal University of Uberl^andia
Abstract The main narratives that explain the development of the modern international
order fall short of incorporating the historical peculiarities of processes of state-formation in
non-European contexts. To overcome that limitation, this paper argues that class agency
must be taken as a core element to understand the social and geopolitical struggles that
shape each case of transition towards modern sovereignty in its historical particularity.
This is informed by the Brazilian historical experience. In that case, statehood can only be
understood as an outcome of the disputes of its ruling landowning class against Portuguese
colonialism, mediated by the British informal empire throughout the 19th century. In order
to bring all these elements together, I follow the tradition of political Marxism to
reconceptualize the very notion of “geopolitics” by grounding it in class-based strategies of
reproduction and spatialization. The result is an agency-centred and radically historicist
theoretical framework that rejects structuralist transhistorical logics of development. It also
argues against the latent Eurocentrism present in theories of state-formation that are
grounded on the European experience and simply transposed to other contexts by stressing
the agency of non-European subjects in the making of their own history.
The prevailing narratives about the evolution of the state-system between the
seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, both in international relations (IR) and
its growing sub-field of international historical sociology (IHS), fall short of
explaining processes of state formation beyond Europe. Since the earliest
attempts to historicize the modern international order, the discipline has
struggled with the varied historical particularities of state-formation. In Latin
American cases, the formal independence from European colonial powers is
framed within systemic processes of ‘globalization of international society’ and
This article was developed from my doctoral research, with the help of my supervisors
(Benno Teschke and Ben Selwyn) at the University of Sussex. It also benefitted from
discussions within that University's Centre for Advanced International Theory, and
Political Marxism Research Group, especially Sam Knafo, Gurminder Bhambra, Felipe
Antunes de Oliveira, and Steffan Wyn-Jones. I thank Joana Perrone in particular, for
the numerous comments and unwavering support. All errors remain my own.
# 2019 Department of Politics and International Studies
2 Pedro Salgado
its legal and political forms (Clark 2005; Reus-Smit 2013; Reus-Smit and Dunne
2017), or understood through abstract forms such as ‘combination’ or
‘modernization’ (Anievas and Nisancıoglu 2015; Buzan and Lawson 2015).
Either way these accounts ultimately reduce these processes to appendices of a
European history. These narratives thus still remain within the limits of
Eurocentrism, as they effectively do away with historical particularity to frame
non-European histories within systemic and general arguments.
The discussion of Eurocentrism in historical sociology and international relations goes well beyond the bounds of this paper (Bhambra 2011; 2010; 2007;
Chakrabarty 2000; Matin 2013; Tansel 2015). I am referring here to merely one of its
aspects: the way in which the main narratives about the historical development of
international politics focus on European processes, not leaving space for any significant role of non-European actors. My goal is to contribute to the development
of an agency-centred theoretical framework to overcome that one aspect of
Eurocentrism (Lawson and Shilliam 2010; Teschke and Cemgil 2014). Empirically,
this entails a narrative of the geopolitical disputes in intra-elite class struggle
between the imperial aristocracy of the Portuguese empire and the colonial landowning elites in Brazil.
Foregrounding these disputes disturbs the main accounts that situate Latin
American formal independence events as foundational moments of IR/IHS.
This proliferation of sovereign polities is commonly treated as a part of the
expansion of the norm-based international society (Reus-Smit 2013; Schulz
2014) which is ‘not considered to be overly problematic’ (Buzan and Lawson
2015, 176) for being led by white, Christian elites (Bull and Watson 1984).
Alternatively, it is held as a minor consequence of the period of bourgeois revolutions in Europe, through the reorganization of its imperial practices
(Anievas and Nisancıoglu 2015; Wallerstein 1989).1
I argue that in order to understand these processes in their historical particularity, it is important to deploy an agency-centred historicism as the analytical lens through which the contributions of context-specific non-European
actors might be taken into account. The theoretical claim made in this article is
that such an agency-centred historicism can be derived from a particular reading of political Marxism (PM) in IR based on an innovative reinterpretation of
two of its central elements. Firstly, the theorization of agency through the
notion of ‘class as process’ formulated by Ellen Wood (1995). Secondly, an
expansion of the notion of ‘geopolitics’ beyond the dichotomy ‘domestic/international’, in order to account for the ways in which forms of territoriality are
produced through strategies of spatialization inherent to particular manifestations of class struggle (Lacher 2006; Teschke 2003; Teschke and Cemgil 2014).
This revision of PM’s analytical principles provides the anti-Eurocentric and
agency-centred historicism so much needed to bring about new perspectives to
the rise of the international system of sovereign states.
Against this backdrop, the article moves on to analyse Brazilian sovereign independence. Brazil is perhaps the best Latin American case to illustrate the argument
This paper engages with narratives that present formal independences as parts of large
scale changing logics of international politics within IHS, understood as a sub-field of IR.
Therefore, it does not engage with other uses of the term or similar expressions (‘state-building’)
that presume, even if implicitly, a (neo-)realist framework of competition and power balancing as
a transhistorical constant (Centeno and Ferraro 2013; Hui 2005; Kurtz 2013; Soifer 2015).
Agency and geopolitics 3
of “international society” and its “standard of civilization”, since its independence
can be compared to an intra-European case of dynastic succession, offering a privileged starting point for a critique of such argument. To highlight how the differences in these many cases of independence are related to the strategies adopted by
local elites, it is important to acknowledge the role of actors located beyond the limits of Europe. By analysing these disputes in early nineteenth century, I demonstrate empirically how theories grounded on overarching logics of international
politics are unable to encompass the Brazilian experience. These systemic arguments overlook the effects of the Crown moving its seat from Lisbon to Rio, and of
the subsequent developments of intra-elite class struggle, by subsuming them
under the image of “globalization” of an European set of norms and values, or as a
“combination” between European and non-European social forms.
The contribution I offer consists of tracking the social and geopolitical intraelite disputes that produced these outcomes, highlighting the practices of accumulation and spatialization that constitute them. Brazilian formal independence
is not related to changes in the relations of exploitation. In order to understand
this historical process, a framework based upon Marxist historical sociology
must then be able to emphasize what Wood calls the ‘horizontal’ class struggle
(Wood 1999) between the political practices of an accumulation of two ruling
classes: Portuguese imperial aristocracy and the Brazilian landowners. Because
of this emphasis on ruling classes,2 this narrative is by no means an exhaustive
account of all the social forces that contribute to the making of Brazilian sovereign statehood. However, the absence of subaltern classes (as slaves and tenant
farmers) in this paper is empirically grounded: despite the number of local
revolts throughout Brazil in early nineteenth century, none of them had the
power to directly influence the formation of an independent sovereign state,
leaving the competition between the ruling classes as the main constitutive
element of Brazilian formal independence and early state-formation. As a result,
their absence in this paper portrays how formal independence in Brazil was a
‘rearticulation of the coloniality of power upon new bases’ (Quijano 2000, 228)
rather than a ‘decolonization’.3 By focusing on intra-ruling class disputes, the
collective agencies directly involved in this rearticulation of coloniality are no
longer accessories to a systemic account of formal independence, but are themselves the core analytical element. The push against Eurocentrism resides in
demonstrating how Brazilian colonial elites actively contributed to this
Despite the emphasis on ruling classes, this framework is not comparable to an ‘elite
analysis’ since such emphasis is not a result of an a priori methodological principle derived from a
philosophy of history based on a ‘top-down’ nature of historical change. It is instead a product of
this paper’s focus on political disputes about the making of state institutions and legitimate rule in
the transition towards formal sovereignty, motivated by the peculiarities of this specific moment
of the Brazilian trajectory. In this sense, Wood’s assertion about ‘horizontal class struggle’ indeed
posits a key methodological aspect of historical analysis, through which political disputes between
different ruling classes can be analysed ‘as distinct from, and even in some respects independent
of, the relation between capital and living labour’ (Wood 1999, 171). However, this does not mean
that a PM framework necessarily privileges intra-elite disputes, but that it is able to do so in order
to accommodate a broader range of historical evidence available in each particular case.
More than including marginalized classes, a richer historicization of Brazilian stateformation would also include racial and gendered lenses to the understanding of collective
agencies (Bhattacharyya 2018; Federici 2004; Quijano 2000; Shilliam 2009). The extent to which
these lenses are compatible with the framework of ‘class as process’ suggested here must be
debated in order to advance an intersectional understanding of IR/IHS.
4 Pedro Salgado
narrative, in ways that cannot be reduced to the adoption of norms and values
of “international society” or to transhistorical laws of intersocietal interaction.
Agency and state-formation in IR and IHS
The concern with state-formation within IR comes from an important evolution
of the discipline. Over the first half of the twentieth century, IR scholars simply
assumed the existence of states.4 The processes through which states come into
being were not investigated. Hence, the coexistence of a multiplicity of states in
international politics was often taken for granted as akin to the multiplicity of
individuals within a society, in what became known as the ‘domestic analogy’
(Bull 1966). By shifting that lens to one that posits the state as a historical object,
with its identity, its governing institutions, and its fundamental norms being the
products of social and geopolitical interactions, reflections on state-formations
and independence events open an important path towards a reinterpretation of
IR’s analytical categories, taking the discipline beyond its initial state-centrism.
These two assumptions—of the sovereign state as a unitary rational actor, and
of the realm of “the international” as separate from “the domestic”—are not
always challenged by the accounts of state-formation within IR. Such assumptions
limit the analytical role played by social forces, either in determining state identity
or policy, or on shaping its institutional and geographical composition. Therefore,
they obfuscate important questions, preserving degrees of teleology and ahistoricism in the evolution of international politics. Below, I discuss how this is the case
with two important accounts of state-formation in the discipline. Firstly, one that is
shared by the English school and some constructivists in IR, based upon the notion
of “international society”. Secondly, I engage the growing literature on IHS, with
special attention to the use of the notion of ‘uneven and combined development’.
One of the first historical accounts of the evolution of the states-system
came from the English school, through the lens of an ‘expansion’, and recently
recast as a ‘globalization of international society’ (Bull and Watson 1984;
Dunne and Reus-Smit 2017).5 In that tradition, the institutional development of
international politics in Latin America is described in two stages: firstly, the
transoceanic expansion of the European international system in the fifteenth
century, when the region becomes engulfed in the network of strategic connections of European empires. Secondly, in the nineteenth century, the creation of
independent states frames the region within the growing European international society through the acceptance of its shared norms and values and
institutions. The moment of independence, and the recognition by their
European counterparts, is marked as an important transition for Latin
American countries, through which they are accepted by European states ‘as
members of the family, though country cousins’ (Watson 1992, 267).6
The main example of this assumption is certainly Morgenthau (1948). Although there were
alternative conceptions of IR in early twentieth century, these have been largely erased from the
discipline’s history in favour of the ‘Aberystwyth narrative’. There is a rich and recent revisionist
historiography of the discipline that recovers such contributions (de Carvalho et al 2011; Thakur
et al 2017; Vitalis 2015).
For a deeper critique of the eurocentrism in the English school, see Sanjay Seth (2011).
That last remark reminds the reader that such inclusion is not without trouble, since they
are still conceived as “less civilized” than the original members of the international society
Agency and geopolitics 5
This argument was amended by a popularization of constructivist scholarship within IR that reads international politics as an arena of social interactions. Some of this constructivist literature builds upon the notion of
“international society”, so that all interactions between sovereign states were
understood as “social”, departing from the distinction established from an
“international system” as a presocial moment of interaction. These social
(inter-state) interactions allowed for the evolution of rules and norms, together
with the legal, political, and institutional structures which support them (ReusSmit 1999; Wendt 1999). Notions such as sovereignty, legitimacy, citizenship
and rights are not born with a transition to a “social” moment. Instead, the
role they play in the social interactions that constitute international order
change through time (Clapton 2017; Clark 2005; Reus-Smit 1999; Schulz 2014).
This constructivist interpretation is currently the most popular version of the
“expansion” argument, presented with the benefit of incorporating a processual historical sociology, being ‘social all the way down’ (Reus-Smit and
Dunne 2017, 31–33). The first problem with “international society” accounts is
precisely that the notion of “social” they employ does not go “all the way
down”. Since ‘sovereignty’ is still treated ‘as the basic structuring principle of
international society’ (Reus-Smit 1999, 159), the histories mobilized in these
accounts are focused on state-to-state interactions in a way that simply
assumes the state as a unitary actor. “Social” is employed in a narrow sense. It
is not brought in to account for non-state agents and forces that might have a
role in shaping its political strategies, its territorial composition, or its institu ...