The utopian memory of Inca Garcilaso

Image: Lars Englund


Commentary on the book by Alfredo Gómez-Muller

For a few decades, original knowledge, especially indigenous knowledge, has occupied a prominent position among those who try to free the socialist conception from the stale old positivist and Eurocentric dogmas that have so much harmed and still harm the senses of contemporary critical thought. In this direction, Alfredo Gómez-Muller presents us with a publication of impact: his dense work on Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, a chronicler from Cuzco whose writings had wide repercussions, since the XNUMXth century and especially the XNUMXth, in the social theories that were consolidated and in the modern socialist thought itself.

A Colombian intellectual based in French academia, Alfredo Gómez-Muller is the author of a wide range of works in the field of ethics and political philosophy – which includes books such as Alterity and ethics since the discovery of America (1997) and Sartre, from 'Nausea' to compromise (2008) –, and for some time now he has been pointing to the importance of a socialist critique that not only analyzes and accuses the barbarities of bourgeois modernity, but that is effectively open to otherness and subjectivity issues, bringing to the reflections and practices of current socialism , still contaminated by evolutionary, Europeanized and scientistic models, the precious knowledge and wisdom of life of original peoples from whom we all have a lot to learn, and urgently.


In this, his most recent book, Alfredo Gómez-Muller scrutinizes the thinking of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, a chronicler of Inca and Spanish ancestry, but who would come to conceive of himself as an “Indian” – who, at the turn of the XNUMXth century to the XVII described, in a detailed historical account, the “agrarian socialism” of the Incas. His writings, developed in the context of the misery that afflicted a large part of Europe – during the social catastrophe produced by primitive accumulation, the origin of the so-called capitalist “progress” – would come to influence various socialist thinkers: from communist-Marxists, to anarchists and social reformers. , having generated debates even in certain less clumsy conservative circles.

The core of the investigation is the Real Comments by Inca Garcilaso, published in 1609, a report that the professor and philosopher goes through in detail, having as its center the theme of socioeconomic justice developed by the Cuzco author. Without sticking only to theoretical aspects of Inca Garcilaso's lyrics, in parallel with the chronicler's writings, Alfredo Gómez-Muller also interprets his life as a whole; thus producing a narrative that overcomes the characteristic dichotomy of modern hegemonic scientism – which artificially compartmentalizes knowledge, intending to separate the conceptual aspects of his work from the author's existence.

In this coming and going between personal, historical experience and the work itself, with well-linked and firm argumentation, Alfredo Gómez-Muller manages to convey an accurate understanding of the concepts, not always explicit, exposed in these chronicles elaborated in the passage from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century. As discussed throughout the text, some of Inca Garcilaso's ideas sound ambiguous, or even hide between the lines of strategic function, at a time when the restriction of freedom of thought was not mainly economic, as it is today, but threatened life more directly, without the mediations of the contemporary spectacle that camouflage violence – which persists.

The book is divided into six parts, unfolded into thirteen chapters, through which it follows from the personal question of Inca Garcilaso's self-identification as an indigenous person, to the resonances of his ideas over the centuries to the present, passing through various reflections and historical data. , and also featuring several quotes from reports and analyzes by contemporaries of the chronicler, which reinforce the veracity of both the chronicles and the theses exposed in the work.

Inca Garcilaso: “Indian” and critic of the European invasion

Initially, in the two chapters that make up the First Part, “Soy indio”, the personal question of Inca Garcilaso is presented, who, in addition to her “biological” mestizo ancestry, understands herself as an indigenous person. “I am an Indian”, he declares at the end of the XNUMXth century, when the word was already commonly used to designate the original American population; and therefore, he reflects: “May it be lawful for me, since I am an Indian, that in this story I write as an Indian”. From this attitude, he would abandon his baptismal name, adopting another one that includes his origin and identification with the Incas.

With this, Inca Garcilaso suggests that his identity is not guided by genetic determinants, but by an existential, political decision: he feels spiritually as an indigenous person. And here Alfredo Gómez-Muller – in a gesture of intellectual honesty that denotes the care with which he prepared this book – makes an interesting self-criticism of his previous work on the subject, published 25 years ago, in which he had considered Inca Garcilaso as a mestizo; throughout the opening chapter, he also exposes how his mistake, of a Eurocentric nature, was disseminated by many authors, such as Miró Quesada, who reduced Inca Garcilaso's “mestizaje” to something “biological”, therefore underestimating the decisive cultural, ideological aspects .

Son of a Spanish crown soldier and an Inca princess, Garcilaso was born in Cuzco in 1539; he is baptized as Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, a tribute name that was given to several of his father's relatives. In his early twenties, in order to gain some recognition from the court, he would begin to use the same name as his father, Garcilaso de la Vega, embracing for a few years, also like his father, a military career. A decade later, having been disappointed with his job as a soldier, he retired to an uncle's house, becoming a “student” – a period in which he dedicated himself strongly to reading and began to write. He was already forty years old when, while translating a philosophical work from Italian into Spanish, he added the name “Inca” to his new signature for the first time.

If, with his initial change of name, he expresses identification with his father's "warrior" figure, an act that encompasses not only social and psychological dimensions, but also tactical-political ones, now, as "Inca Garcilaso", he signals the recognition of his maternal origin . With the first movement, he opens up conservative spaces in the aristocratic Spain of that time; with the latter – for which he will be recognized –, he expresses his dual origin, Spanish and Inca, without however effectively considering himself a “mestizo”, a term that, as he notes, was laden with contempt. “I am an Inca Indian” – he declares: “I am a Catholic Christian Indian”.

Here is the cue for Part Two: “Justificación de la conquest?”. As mentioned, a certain interpretation, reasonably established, states that the “Catholic” Inca Garcilaso was a “mestizo”, since, in the name of the possibility of Christianization of the indigenous people, he supposedly “justified” the atrocities of the European invasion. This position, however, is refuted by Gómez-Muller, for whom Inca Garcilaso uses a kind of tactical flattery here; Corroborating this position, the anthropologist and historian Emilio Choy is cited, who considers that the chronicler concealed his criticism of the destruction of the Inca empire, so as not to provoke the wrath of the truculent Holy Office.

Indeed, despite her discretion, Inca Garcilaso is not silent; to say of him is “tacit” – meaning silent, unspoken, implied. As an example, see the following passage from the “Real Comments”, in which, relating the death of Túpac Amaru, Garcilaso shows what he considers “legitimate”, and therefore “illegitimate”: “Así acabó este Inca, legitimate hereder of that empire (...)”. As Flores Galindo, another scholar on the subject, also notes, the chronicler's message is that “the Spaniards are usurpers”, thus suggesting that there should be “the restitution of the Empire to its legitimate rulers”.

Alfredo Gómez-Muller's argument then takes on elements of “tacit comparison”. Inca Garcilaso, when writing about “government, laws and customs”, prudently states that he does not intend to compare anything. However, in the course of his account, in dozens of chapters, he builds the image of a “prosperous, just and well-organized” society, which knew how to “found a model of good government” – both for times of peace and war. . In another part of the extensive chronicle, after a preamble in which he states that the objective of that section would be to show the virtue of the conquerors, he actually describes the advent of the conquest as an event that opens an era of violence, arbitrariness, dispossession, injustice.

The most frequent themes throughout the two hundred chapters are: betrayal, crimes, destruction, murders, torture, rape, hangings, beheadings, rebellions, riots, massacres, robberies, looting – in a description that succeeds at a breakneck pace. According to the summary of the indigenous chronicler, unlike the time of the Inca empire: “in all that time [of the invasion] there was nothing but war and death”.

Reports and data of the Inca “good government”: an agrarian socialism

In its Third Part, The utopian memory of lnca Garcilaso embarks on a subject that is of the most interest to communists and various scholars of contemporary socialism: the story about the “agrarian communism” of the Incas, a theme dear to the great Marxist thinker José Carlos Mariátegui.

Identifying the god of the Christians with the Sun god of the Incas, the Cuzqueño understands the divinity as being the bearer of justice: providing human beings with “reason” and “urbanity”. In his conception of the mythical account of the foundation of the Inca empire, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, “son and daughter of the Sun”, are “civilizing” gods whose main teaching has a “moral” character, in a sense that we would currently understand as an “ethics”. social” (or how people should treat each other); and also, as a “political” knowledge (related to “good government” or how kings should govern to benefit their subjects).

Inca Garcilaso – always analyzed here from the perspective exposed by Alfredo Gómez-Muller – considers that it was precisely in this aspect of “moral philosophy” that the Incas developed the most, having even surpassed their technical knowledge and their “natural philosophy”. Moving away from the artificial modern-European separation between theory and practice, moral philosophy, according to the chronicler's conception, is at the same time wisdom and practice of rules, values ​​and norms of coexistence; it is not expressed in abstract or theoretical treatises, but in everyday social practices and laws. Or from another point of view: it is not a rigid, dogmatic knowledge, but a living knowledge, in historical movement, since it arises from the continuous reflection on the “natural law” and the “lived experience”.

In defense of his point of view, the indigenous thinker summons Spanish authors in his report, whose comments also denote singular admiration for Inca society and knowledge – whom Europeans at the time generally considered infidels and with diabolical practices. This is the case of Pedro Cieza de León, who in the XNUMXth century, analyzing the political, social and economic organization of this people, affirms that “they had such good government that few others in the world take advantage of them”; or the Jesuit José de Acosta, for whom Inca law was “worthy of admiration” and “more advanced” than “many of the European republics”.

According to Inca Garcilaso, what is admirable in the moral philosophy of the Incas is their practical knowledge related to the materiality of life, the conditions of reproduction and social development. In the chapters of Real comments in which he describes “customs, laws and government”, he presents the so-called “common law”: a refined characteristic of Inca society, which Alfredo Gómez-Muller, using the conceptualization of the socialist philosopher Karl Polanyi, relates to the practices of “redistribution” and “reciprocity”. This common law concerns the state structure: the common work carried out in the “things of the republic”.

The Inca lands were divided into three parts: one was for the Sun god, another for the king (the Inca), and the last for the “naturals” – for the people in general. Such plots, however, were always divided according to the principle that “the natives had enough to be able to sow”, so that “they would rather have enough than lack”. Another important aspect is that the lands belonging to the natives belonged jointly to the “residents” – that is, they were communal properties, not private ones: their “common” cultivation was oriented towards satisfying the needs of the community as a whole.

With regard to the lands of the Sun and the Inca, it was also the “naturals” – the communeiros, those who lived in each “commune” – who worked them, in order to support the group of priests and rulers; they thus provided the necessary goods for the common celebration of the sacred, which was common to all; and maintenance of government officials, responsible for administering public affairs (tax collection, redistribution of general production, carrying out public works such as roads, food deposits and other goods necessary for life).

Although such a system characterizes a certain exploitation of one social class by others, it should be noted that there was an absolute, objective limit to the appropriation of communal tributes by socially hegemonic groups (priests and rulers): the aforementioned rule that no one should lack no satisfaction of basic needs. If the population grew – exemplifies Garcilaso – land “on the part of the Sun and on the part of the Inca was assigned to the vassals”, so that the king only took for himself or for the god “the lands that would remain deserted, without owner". Such limits – which prevented possible arbitrariness on the part of political and religious power – constitute for the Cuzco chronicler, and for many of his contemporaries, a determining aspect of the value of the “moral philosophy” of that people.

Another important point for the functioning of this system is that the taxes paid by the commoners, in addition to being regulated by a series of laws and forums considered inviolable, were paid not through goods of their own production, but directly in work: a common work, which foresaw the carrying out of specific tasks in which each one was not obliged to do anything that was outside the scope of his own office (although many community members had several offices). Although the majority of the population was engaged in farming in the lands of the Sun and the Inca, there were also certain specialists who, as payment for taxes, carried out their specialized work: silver artisans, potters, musicians, painters, weavers, builders, etc. On the other hand, soldiers in military exercise – as well as members of the social elite (governors, judges, religious, etc.) – were exempt from taxation, since their tasks were already considered, in themselves, as tribute.

Such a fairly equitable distribution of work-tribute allowed each community member's contribution not to burden anyone too much. “The tax burden that those kings imposed on their vassals” – ponders Inca Garcilaso – “was so light”, that to many it might seem “a mockery”. In addition, he completes, the rulers “distributed in large quantities the necessary things to eat and wear”.

As said, in addition to the land belonging to the “things of the republic” – those of the “Sun” and the “Inca” – there was a part that belonged to the “natives of the province”, to the “residents” of each town or “community”. If those lands belonging to the dominant groups were governed by the so-called “common law”, these, those belonging to the commoners, were subject to an even earlier law: the “law of brotherhood”. Such lands, destined to the generality of the “vassals”, were not anyone's private property, but collective lands – belonging to the community as a whole. The Incas did not consider themselves as self-sufficient individuals governed by their “private” interest, but rather as members of their community, part of their village.

The communal territory – common to all residents, who produced together in it – comprised arable land, pastures and forests, as well as water resources. There was, however, a practical division of land among the commoners – not in the sense of “property”, but of “usufruct” –, and this distribution was redrawn annually by a communal council that verified possible inaccuracies in the allocation of spaces in the previous season, redistributing the communal land among the families, according to the “needs” of each one.

There is another surprising feature of the Inca social organization, which Garcilaso calls “law in favor of the poor”: the “effective commitment in favor of justice” promoted by the “good government”, according to which the common goods were redistributed with priority to those considered as poor. . And it can be seen here, an aspect of the greatest importance, that – in this society where no one was deprived of goods – those considered “poor” were those who could not, were not able to work. The condition of “poor” was attributed “to the elderly and sick”, “to widows and orphans” – points out Inca Garcilaso. Other chroniclers add to this list the lame, the blind, people with disabilities in general, as well as those with meager families. In contrast, “rich” were the healthy, those with children and families to work with; those who produced and paid their taxes.

Regarding the issue of the poor, Inca Garcilaso, in addition to several chroniclers and even employees of the Spanish crown, states that as a means of meeting their needs, the Incas kept deposits, which formed part of the organization of redistribution of goods, aimed mainly at the needy population. Apart from this state redistribution, there was also a solidarity system of communal redistribution, based on the law of brotherhood, according to which communal work was ordered: “first the lands of the Sun”, then those of “widows and orphans”, of the “elderly” and “sick” – that is, priority was given to all who were considered poor; and only afterwards did each one work the lands for his usufruct.

Under such a markedly ethical social order, it is inferred from Garcilaso's reports that among the Incas, even though there was inequality and class exploitation, a life at least modest was guaranteed to all, in which the necessary resources were universally guaranteed for the population to live. at least live in a simple way, but never on the verge of hunger, cold: among the Incas there was no poverty; They were governed by a social acknowledgment of everyone's duties towards everyone, a practice regulated by ethical limits that are those of the most basic human needs – food, clothing, shelter.

"Inca communism” and the impact of Inca Garcilaso on contemporary socialism

The dense ethical-political content of the Real comments would come to achieve an extraordinary resonance over time, becoming an important reference of the new sociopolitical thought that ascended in XNUMXth-century Europe: this is what the Fourth Part of the book is about, entitled “The impact of real comments in the XNUMXth century”. From an alleged rapprochement between primitive Christianity and indigenous communalism, Garcilaso's chronicle would have been used since the XNUMXth century for Jesuit catechization; is what Mariátegui considers, among others, in his Seven essays on the interpretation of the Peruvian reality (1989 [1928]).

However, in the latter part of the eighteenth century this historical account expands its impact in another direction. In this time of American pre-independence turmoil, ever-increasing sections of the population creole (descendants of Europeans born in America) began to identify themselves as “Americans” rather than as “Spanish from America”, so that in this historical process the Real comments would come to be used as an “Americanist” reference, in positions critical of the colonial government.

The interest aroused by the writings of Inca Garcilaso in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries is therefore not due to a superficial attraction to the “exotic”, but rather to its political and ethical content. It is worth noting, with Alfredo Gómez-Muller, that the Europeans who read Garcilaso at the time were immersed in a catastrophic society that produced immense contingents of helpless people: there were millions and millions of people condemned to a miserable life marked by hunger, unhealthy conditions, repression, violence, pests, misery. In this context of social catastrophe, the debate on “good government” did not only have a theoretical, abstract character, but was an issue that was on the urgent agenda. By these times, the enclosures of communal lands and open fields, cultivated by peasants, constituted an immense tragedy that afflicted a significant part of the European population. As already stated, to this process of private and violent accumulation of common lands, Marx (in the first volume of The capital) called “primitive accumulation”, conceiving it as the basis for the advent of the capitalist regime. As Alfredo Gómez-Muller rightly observes, the evolution of capitalism was not “one factor among others” in the exponential evolution of European poverty, but its “essential determination”.

Thus, in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, the idea of ​​Incan “good government” – a conception constructed especially from the chronicles of Inca Garcilaso – would be developed by different thinkers in order to criticize the modern socioeconomic, political and cultural order. -European. In the last days of the French Revolution, the socio-political project of the community of goods, described by Garcilaso, appears explicitly in the Manifesto of Equals (1797), which Alfredo Gómez-Muller points out as one of the most interesting initiatives of this revolutionary process; Sylvain Maréchal, who is credited with writing this manifesto, proved to be familiar with the Real comments – that he reproduces, in a book of his, descriptions and terms used by the Cuzco author.

Decades later, at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the debate on the possibilities of socioeconomic equality would resurface with force in the scenario of the new “social question” that the Industrial Revolution posed: theme of the Fifth Part of the work, “'Incan communism' and 'modern anti-capitalism' '”.

Incorporating new technologies into productive activities always oriented towards private appropriation, this event was one of the most violent in human history: in large industrial units, men, women and children gave 15 hours or more of their daily lives, subjected to work in unhealthy environments. , watched, abused, subjected to military-type discipline and without having any labor rights, in exchange for a meager salary. At the end of the XNUMXth century, points out Gómez-Muller, London was a Dantesque hell: one million people, out of a total of four million, were extremely poor; hungry, malnourished, living crowded in dirty cubicles, stricken by epidemics; a horror universe in which only half of the children managed to survive until the age of five.

The “social question” – a euphemism that conceals the enormous tragedy that was the reality of misery for the European proletariat – aroused various popular protests throughout the XNUMXth century. With these conflicts, the discussion in search of solutions to the problem intensifies. In the first half of the century, intellectuals such as Saint-Simon, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and Pierre-Joseph Proudon began to develop new socialist theories, although their conceptions of philanthropic tendencies were limited by the lack of a perspective that encompassed the social totality. and pave the way for effective social transformation. Such theories were therefore called by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels “utopian socialism” (and here the term “utopia” is used in its negative sense, as a fragile proposal, disconnected from reality as a whole, incapable of breaking with the structure of the system).

Around the middle of the century, great critical thinkers, such as Marx and Mikhail Bakunin, deepened the content of the debate around the project for a more just society; From then on, the concepts of socialism and communism – in their modern sense – were consolidated, accompanied by different adjectives. Initially, being a communist has the meaning of being a supporter of the “community of goods”, understood as an egalitarian system of redistribution of production based on common property and the satisfaction of the fundamental needs of human existence. According to Alfredo Gómez-Muller, in 1854, what is probably the first explicit characterization of Inca society as a “communist” system would emerge; This is the encyclopedia of the philosopher Ange Guépin, entitled XNUMXth century philosophy, in which it is stated that the Incas lived in a “very paternal communist theocracy and with a very skilful government”.

In the second half of the 1864th century, the terms communism and socialism gained prominence, in parallel with the growing labor movement – ​​and their meanings began to differentiate, so that, strictly speaking, “socialism” would come to encompass a broader ideological range, in the which includes not only contemporary “communism” (the properly “Marxist” branch of socialism), but also libertarian socialism, anarcho-syndicalism, among other anti-capitalist currents. In 1869, the International Association of Workers (First International) is created; in 1871 the German Social-Democratic Workers' Party is founded; in 1889 workers promoted the first modern communist experiment: the Paris Commune. In XNUMX, the Socialist International (Second International) is created. And a year later, the ethnologist Heinrich Cunow, a member of the German Social Democracy, the strongest party of the Workers' International, proposed a thesis that would gain significant breadth at the time, according to which: in ancient "Peru" there was a way of “primitive communism”.

Around this time, a series of anthropological investigations were dedicated to understanding the forms of communal organization of societies originating from different periods of history: this is the case of Henry Morgan, whose main work, the ancient society (ancient society, 1877), describes the socioeconomic organization of the Iroquois communities, their way of life, as “communism”, stressing that this indigenous people even shared housing. The community system described in this book had a considerable impact on anthropology and thought at the time, so that the political dimension of this new knowledge about indigenous peoples would begin to be perceived by several thinkers.

This is the case of Marx and Engels, who read this work by Morgan (from which Marx writes his studies that would come to be called Ethnological notebooks). And also by Rosa Luxemburgo, who already in the XNUMXth century writes about “old” or “original” communism., exposing the political reaction of conservative intellectuals against advances in anthropology. With sagacity, Rosa notes that the bourgeoisie had intuited “a sinister relationship between the very ancient communist traditions” of peoples who firmly resisted the colonial invasion, “eager for profit”, and “the new gospel of the revolutionary impulse of the proletarian masses”.

It should be noted here that the political meaning of the anthropological thesis of “original communism” is not limited to the critique of the naturalization of private property, the basis of capitalist ideology, but is also opposed to the so-called “social evolutionism”, a mechanistic idea of ​​Eurocentric bias that assumes the historical evolution of Europe as a universal model to be observed by all the peoples of the world – a conception of positivist influence that would even affect dogmatic currents of Marxism.[I] Effectively, according to this restricted historical perspective, a deviation in which Cunow incurs, it is not admitted that human evolution can include different trajectories, and that in these trajectories there are also setbacks. Thus, for the social-democratic ethnologist, the term “primitive” – with which he characterizes Inca “communism” – has a negative connotation, designating the idea that it is a “backward” system, which had been definitively “overcome” by “progress” (in the modern ideological sense of this concept).

Against such non-dialectical theories, Rosa Luxemburgo protests, stating that this “noble tradition of the distant past” – the “communist-democratic society” – “extended its hand to the revolutionary efforts of the future”. In her analysis of "original communism", a term she almost always prefers to "primitive", it highlights the following characteristics that justify the denomination “communist”: the existence of “communal lands”; and the “redistribution of lots” for cultivation, based on family needs. For the Marxist thinker, there is a dialectic relationship between “past” and “future” communism, which allows us to reflect, with more elements, for example, the “democratic” aspect of communist society. Such a vision of this temporal dialectic is also present in JC Mariátegui, who refers to the Inca socio-political system at times as “agrarian communism”, at times as “indigenous socialism”, among other terms – but considering it as “the most advanced communist organization, primitive , which records history”.

In this historical discussion, there are certainly authors who, for various reasons, above all the existence of social hierarchy, do not consider that Inca society can be considered a kind of “primitive communism”. The sociologist Guillaume de Greef is an example: in his interpretation, there is a “logical divergence” between the communal (“egalitarian”) face and the state (“hierarchical”) face of the Incas. The anarchist Elisée Reclus, as Alfredo Gómez-Muller observes, although he uses the term “Quechua communism”, seems to associate it with the “traditional communalism” of the population, not with the system as a whole; By giving less value to the absence of private property among the Incas, Reclus focuses on the fact that such a society was hierarchical, subject to “masters”, accusing it of being “despotic” and stating that it did not allow the freedom of the “individual”. .

About this theme of “individual freedom”, it is worth resorting to Mariátegui (1989), who makes interesting considerations about it, arguing that “individual freedom is an aspect of the complex liberal phenomenon”, a demand of the “modern”, “individualist” spirit – something that an Inca, with his solidary discipline, would feel “no need”.

In any case, for decades, between the end of the XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXth, the debate on the question of Inca “communism” or “socialism” deepened, reflections that, as Gómez-Muller observes, were largely influenced by the historical account of Inca Garcilaso. And beyond the discussion on the pertinence of these concepts, it is certain that they contributed to the outlining of concrete ideas and policies that will influence the very questioning of the notions of “socialism” and “communism”: see the case of concepts dear to thought modern socialist, such as emancipation, freedom and social justice, as well as reflections on political practices of various nations.

Closing this breathtaking work, Alfredo Gómez-Muller presents in “Resonancias contemráneas” – Sixth Part of the work – the echoes reached today by the speech of Inca Garcilaso, which cross the XNUMXth century and gain even more strength in the XNUMXst century, with the increase of the political protagonism of indigenous and peasant organizations: when the environmental issue is violently aggravated, one of the rotten fruits of the capitalist structural crisis, today the focus of so many debates and concrete concerns. In this historical dialectical movement, it is worth highlighting the conception of “good living”, ancestral knowledge that guides human activity in the world, its relationship with the cosmos in which it is inserted.

Initially questioned by the Quechua and Aymara Andean peoples, this conception of the world, which involves the material (objective) and spiritual (subjective) quality of the relationship between human beings and nature, was then elaborated in the first decades of this new century by several socialist thinkers, contrary to vulgar capitalist materialism – a static, petty and self-destructive regime that submits and affects us all –, in a debate that even reached constitutional levels, when it was recognized as a national political proposal by progressive governments in Bolivia and Ecuador .

The book ends with an extensive and diversified bibliography that can serve as a guide for those who venture into the study of this very pertinent subject. As a simple suggestion by this reviewer and scholar of the subject to the editors, it might be worth including as an appendix, in a welcome next edition, an index exposing the many books and hundreds of chapters that make up this broad historical account, which would further instigate those interested .

Here, then, is an appetizer of The utopian memory of Inca Garcilaso, that intense book that Alfredo Gómez-Muller offers us; mature work to be read, meditated on and have its ideas increasingly put into practice.

*Yuri Martins-Fontes Professor and PhD in Economic History (USP/CNRS). Author, among other books, of Marx in America: the praxis of Caio Prado and Mariátegui (Mall).

Originally published in the magazine Unisinos History, No. 27, Jan.-Apr. 2023.


Alfredo Gomez-Muller. The utopian memory of Inca Garcilaso: Andean communalism and good government. Buenos Aires, Tinta Limón Ed., 2021, 388 pages.


[I] This theme is further developed in the work marx in america (Alameda/Fapesp, 2018).

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