Recursive Relationships and Mutual Recognition A review of the Book “What if Latin America Ruled the world”, Ch. 9 Crisis: The Rise and Fall of Global Capitalism


In Chapter 9 of the Book “What if Latin America ruled the world” Guardiola informs the reader that the rise and fall of Global Capitalism has brought a different type of Agency and a new Individualistic Security State in Latin America. Ontologically, the author adopts an objective/subjective position to understand, verstehen, a part with individualistic ends that can and has the potential to contain a whole. This part is not real it is virtual, and might be interpreted as performing different roles, namely, as a dream, a world, context, system, field and even a prison with its own type of Structures, Agency, Power relationships as well as Change, which are properties that emerge through and within Morphogenetic and Morphostasis processes and scenarios (Archer, 1995). It can be also interpreted as a dream with its own dreams, or as an Agency that seeks to transform or reproduce the external and internal world by dreaming a dream within a dream. As Agency, this part perceives and interprets the external world as given, therefore its objects or even its parts (tangible, intangible or categorical) can be used (as commodities), appropriated and accumulated by the powerful and the fittest for individualistic ends. At some point in history this part has absorbed another part on the other side of the world, it has conquered its core and it has spread quickly all its properties like a virus to the peripheries, fixing and repressing the memories and dreams of Agency while constraining them through the Individualistic Security State and its discourses. Perhaps because of this constraint at some point in history the agent makes sense of its new condition, produces knowledge of a situation of oppression, of poverty, of suffering, of violation of rights, bringing at the same time an image and a memory of the lost commons of their Indians and African ancestors, the agent ends up realising that it was part of someone’s dream. After this process of reflexivity, Agency wakes up from the dream, Agency becomes real not a fiction or a falsity, and start remembering and recovering its identity, its past, its memories, and crucially, its understanding and meaning of the external world, an external world that focuses on relationships of reciprocity, of equality and justice. This leads Agency to have a clear sense of orientation, a vision of building a new Collectivist Security State with the objective of controlling the infinite, the future for egalitarian ends, by using new technology, empowering local Agency and retaining a common culture of shared responsibilities and obligations to the natural world and to both ancestors and future generations[1].

The aim of Guardiola-Rivera in Chapter 9 is to challenge speculative thinking. Indeed, it is certainly a process of discovery. The author reveals a hidden ontological world to the reader through stories and events that has taken place in Latin America in the last century. In this analysis, the author looks at the Capitalist system, its Structures and the way it has emerged in this part of the world. Guardiola-Rivera tries to understand Agency and the way it has confronted and resisted structural power using logos, reason and reflexivity.

In this essay I will start interpreting Chapter 9 of the Book “What if Latin America ruled the world” by first describing the emergence of the Individualist Security State in a Neoliberal context in Latin America, I will then examine the emergence and resistance of Agency, and then finally, I will attempt to describe a clear interpretation of the Agency of Guardiola-Rivera based in relationships of Objective and Subjective recursivity supported with the theory of Agency of Habermas[2] based in relationships of mutual recognition. The central argument of this essay is that Objective and Subjective recursive relationships of the external world offers a new procedure with core processes that will allow us to discuss the type of society, the paradise we want to have and how to get there.

The Emergence of the Individualistic Security State in Latin America

According to Guardiola-Rivera (2010), the era that lasted from the 1950s until the late 1970s in Latin America might be perceived as the “Industrial Revolution in the Third Word”, during this period Latin America pursued policies of state intervention and selectively opened up their economies, as a result of this per capita income grew by 3% annually faster than the developing country average (p, 302). The dream of the individualist has caused new expectations and new consumption styles and this put pressure on levels of productivity, thus, increasing demand. However, a team of intellectuals in Latin America understood these emergent processes from a different perspective. In this way this type of Agency woke up from the individualistic dream. By that time, the world has been transformed and new changes in the economic, social political, management, communications and technological arena were taking place. According to sociologists such as Fernando Henrique Cardoso[3], the role of entrepreneurs had changed and the centre had moved to the periphery. This phenomenon has taken place due to the emergence of MNCs[4]. We could look at these phenomenon and at the entire system from the vantage point of the future in order to create a sort of “Collectivist Security State”, with a new sense of “orientation, a new “vision”, a proper fiction that will organise, forecast and coordinate the infinite, ensuring the sustainability of this world for future generations and aiming to achieve redistributive collective ends. The key was to coordinate responses to crisis with communal associations empowering different local agents from the bottom up by using the new information and communication technologies available. Cycles, crises, risks and catastrophes could now be faced by better more efficient forms of command, control, coordination, and anticipation. The problems of development could be merged with the challenges of security. The “race” was not about “technology” but about “orientation” about designing a more effective strategy to control the future.

This was certainly the strategy adopted in Chile during the administration of Salvador Allende[5]. Allende’s Government began implementing an economic plan designed by Vuscovic[6] following Raul Presbich[7] ECLA[8] principles in 1970, this plan aimed at increasing purchasing power and aggregate demand through redistributive measures, increasing salaries and expenditure. However, by July 1971 the government of Allende faced management problems of coordination, which created unrest and some protest from the right, consumption outstripped production, inflation rose and government spending deficit exacerbated by shrinking foreign reserves and the refusal of credits by markets abroad. The solution of the Government was to create a new project that will combine existing cybernetic technology while contributing to the nationalisation process, a virtual machine embedded with cybernetic principles of recursivity (ibid p, 311) and self-reflexivity (ibid p, 304) in charge not of regulating people but regulating and controlling the infinite, the future embedded in economic processes. A new revolution could work through politics, through democracy embedded in a constitutional and legal framework rather than through war and violence. The power of reason, the power of the new information and communication technologies will be given to the local community, to the local communal associations rather than to politicians. This took place in a context of a battle of ideologies: Capitalist Vs Communists. “Cybersyn” means how to generate energy from the different parts. In a way it is clear that for Allende there was a “third way” to socialism not through armed conflict or the imposition of an idea but through collaboration “solidarity” and coordination of different agents in order to generate integration. On the morning of 11 September 1973 at 2 pm Salvador Allende, president of Chile was dead. Chilean Armed forces launched a military coup against him led by General Augusto Pinochet. The Cybersyn project was dismantled and forgotten and erased (ibid, 2010: 312). Despite its resistance, Agency at the national level was now absorbed by a new discourse, and by the laws, policies and standards of a new Individualistic Security State. Some of the Agents who started to remember their identities were absorbed once again by the individualistic dream that trapped and imprisoned the individual in these structural processes, shaping the subject self-awareness, constructing its will and internalising long-lasting dispositions, attitude, behaviour, language, habitus transposable between fields. The IMF[9] and the World Bank emerged and accelerated the absorption process through their policies at the global level.

It is worth mentioning that in these ontological journey although Structure and Agency are related by power, power also exist “out there” and inside these worlds, and inside “its parts”, within the dream of the dream, and it is embodied in the agent and translated as a “means” of control. Control differs in each part, one is characterised by a new mode of regulation or as an Individualistic Security State and the other as a Collectivist Security State coordinating local agents and empowering people from the bottom up. Change is transformational achieved by an Agency through non-violent revolution. Indeed, the role of the state in this scenario is to coordinate local agents, communities, people by empowering them and to exercise command of control of the infinite, the future that will allow them to achieve their own ends while forecasting risks and crisis. Power is perceived to confront power through democratic, electoral means embedded in a constitutional and legal framework seeking a purpose to reclaim and demand the respect of the rights and dignity of the individual. Like Foucault, power is not only perceived to be negative, coercive but also it is a positive force. Ironically, agents perceive Structure externally as a field, by being caught in struggle for change. Structure, understood as a dream, constrains them to seek certain ends. Agents are not conscious, in fact they might be a fiction, a falsity, and they seem to be constrained by some kind of urgency, or “feel for the game”. Both Agents perceive, interpret, use the internal and external world and its objects as a means to achieve a particular end, namely to go to the “paradise” through accumulation or reciprocity/mutual aid or solidarity while at the same time, Agents construct meaning of the objects found in their external world. While the individualist Agency perceived in the external world objects to be used as a means to accumulate, the Latin American Agency experienced and perceived in nature a set of relationships but not one of synthesis, rather one of reciprocity leading to redistribution, to equality, justice and integration.

The Emergence of the Latin American Agency

On 4 February 2000 the poor indigenous people of Bolivia took to the streets to reclaim their natural right to have access to water. President and former dictator of Bolivia Hugo Banzer declared martial law and sent in the police to confront the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, leaving many young people injured. The Individualistic Security State of this government limited the freedom of the press, banned gathering and suspended civil rights, in the name of the common interests (Bechtel Corporation), to protect the law and order. (Guardiola-Rivera, 2010: 313). There were hundreds of young people 16 or 17 year olds who lost their arms or legs or who were left handicapped for life by brain injuries and Victor Hugo Daza was killed. In this dream the World Bank and IMF internalised beliefs in countries and governments: policies such as privatisation, deregulation and protection of foreign investment were the best means to go to the Paradise. As a result of this, the Individualistic Security State and its discourses “divided” and “classified” Bolivians into those who could pay and those who could not, between the human and the non-human.

In a similar vein, the author presents the story of the current President of Brazil Diva Vana Rousseff who seems to be repeating again the project of Salvador Allende in Chile back in the 1970s. Both Agents elected democratically seem to share a focus on the end of equality and redistribution, a focus on the control of the infinite. After being in prison and tortured by the Individualistic Security State, Dilma became a minister of President Lula focusing on domestic control of the resources and redistribution of resources to the poor. She is now in charge of the “Growth Acceleration Program” that includes policies such Auxilio Gas, The Popular Restaurant, The Water Cisterns programme, the Program for the Acquisition of Small Families Agricultural products, the continuous Benefit payment for Social Assistance and the programme of Benefits known as Bolsa Familia which operates as a direct and conditional cash transfer family allowance that benefits family with a monthly income of up to $ 70 and is managed directly by women acting as family and community leaders, in the area of health and education, (ibid, p, 289). These  policies have helped to protect the country during this economic climate.

As agents, their knowledge, active nature, reflexivity, individuality arose from their experience of the external world, with nature and its interpretation. In this ontological analysis, Agents are not only limited to interpreting themselves doing something with the external world or even perhaps perceiving (a single type of) species competing one another for scarce resources, space, food and rewards, in a process that leads them to create emergent properties such as the self, reason, reflexivity and the categories of knowledge, rather instead, agents use a framework of Objective and Subjective recursivity. A framework used while the agent is “in the world” interpreting and “doing something”. The latter framework presupposes that objects have been shared by an entity and cannot be appropriated by man. It is this type of experience that wakes them up from the individualistic dream.

Today, Agency is still affected by the Individualistic Security State with new and modern disciplinary discourses, and surveillance strategies dividing and classifying objects and people between “us” and “them”, between human and non-human.

Indeed one of the stories presented by the author in this Chapter might reveal more details of the “inside” of this dream and how it feels like, how it looks like. This dream might be like a prison, not Alcatraz, but rather a modern one, like the biggest prison in the world.  We might be still trapped in a dream, in a prison like the Twin Tower correctional facility, a prison that is a self-reflection of modern society. This prison represents the part/context/system/world of the emergent Neoliberalist Structure in Latin America, one whose ideology rewards self-reliance, responsibility, and individual success, while constraining Agents to contribute financially to its sustainability. This compulsion the author notes is not the result or coercion but rather a combination of financial magic (incentive) and the ideology of self-reliance (p, 292).

As Max Weber[10] might suggest this stahlhartes Gehäuse or “Iron Cage” is leading Latin Americans to a polar night of icy darkness. This prison has been the result of the rationalisation of social action in the Latin American Society and of the emergent properties brought about by the Structure of Neoliberalism.The Individualistic Security State is today using virtual technology and systems in “virtual prisons” “virtual dreams” such as Government Databases, Internet, Websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked in, My Space, systems that we supposed to be using to control the infinite. These systems are currently being used to build, control and shape our individual expectations, thus, conquering our life world. This new prison is defining our identities, principles, values, morality, beliefs, knowledge, faith, ethics, virtues, motivations, behaviour, attitudes, qualities and our language. It is dividing/classifying humans between those secured and insecured. It is creating new paradigms, new discourses of terrorism, dictatorship and insecurity in order to protect “the common interest”. It is creating new needs and violating human rights of innocent people in the name of global security and control, while ironically using this process of control in another “dream” or level “a dream within a dream”, as an “opportunity”, as a “means” to regulate the market in its own interest. Real perpetrators of violations of human rights are constantly detained, investigated and sentenced when it fits strategic interests of the dream, when it fits the immanent demands of the field, that of preservation. Control is not exercised at the global level through international judicial courts as well as through the international mechanisms, processes and standards of the rule of law embedded in a globalised democratic and constitutional framework. This new control and regulation of desires and expectations embedded in this “virtual” prison or “virtual dream” account for our lack of orientation. Agency is perceived as being trapped, dreaming in this modern virtual prison. This ontological perception might suggest that unless Agency wakes up and begins perceiving the world not simply in terms of objects to be used and appropriated for individualistic ends, but rather more in terms of relationships of reciprocity, coordination and equality we will be imprisoned and trapped in this dream within a dream forever, we will not be real, we will just be part of someone’s dream, sharing a place, a world that contain nothing and where time runs quickly and people seem to forget reality, a space that is not dreamt by any collective Agency, we might be trapped and alone in a shared space where any powerful individualistic Agency can make drastic alterations with the objective of preservation, accumulation and appropriation, ultimately, living in a world in which Agency perceives and creates simultaneously with no understanding that they are constructing within a dream space.

Objective Recursivity and Subjective Recursivity

Recursive relationships are understood as core processes that always take place in the system. They are not really the means to achieve a particular end or an end in itself of the system, since we understand that the world is not trying to achieve a particular purpose, indeed there is not purpose. These relationships based on principles of recursivity are what sustain the system that make the creation of purposes possible, it’s what allows the entire system to work and to reproduce itself. The imbalance in the system arises when one part, adopting an individualistic attitude of accumulation of the objects of the external world starts appropriating and accumulating all the forces of power by creating a vision and a strategy (modernity), thus, creating a catastrophic event in the entire system. Adopting only a particular attitude towards the external world might lead to reproduce systems and structures characterised by inequality and imbalances.

If we apply the idea of relationships of recursivity of the Chinese Box effect of mise en abime (the experience of standing between two mirrors in an endless sucession of internal duplications) used by Guardiola-Rivera when the Latin American Agency objectively looks at a mirror it perceives the Inanimate natural world (i.e. the sun, moon, planets, stars) “out there”, creating order and balance, having its own processes and regulations,  while at the same time, it perceives itself during the process, internalising structures of the Inanimate Natural world that creates categories of reason and knowledge, this objective attitude leads agency to perceive the external world as inanimate objects that he is able to control, he perceives control and balance and develops an attitude of control of his internal world as well as of the Inanimate natural world, in this way he is Active and Knowledgeable. Contrary to the Spaniards, the Animate Natural, the Supernatural and the Social world was understood by the Mayans as humans, as sacred, as having life, containing unseen powers and it had to be approached with ritual and sense of reciprocity. When the Latin American Agency subjectively looks at a mirror it perceives the Animate, Natural, Supernatural and Social world (i.e. Spirits, animals, men), while at the same time, it perceives itself during the process, internalising also structures of this world, and creating categories of practical and implicit knowledge and the Self.  Haberma’s theory of identity that focuses in the relationships of Agency with their Social world might also illustrate how this subjective relationship with the Animate, Natural, Supernatural and Social world takes place since he points out that the integrity of the individual cannot be secured without the integrity of the intersubjectively shared lifeworld that makes possible their shared interpersonal relations and relations of mutual recognition (Cohen 1994 p,378). Habermas “subjective recursivity” is not only an experience of standing between two mirrors or a mere reflection. When I am in front of another person recognising me, not only do they recognise me but I recognised them recognising me, a process understood as a reciprocal relationship or mutual recognition. Indeed, we recognise each other and through that recognition we recognise ourselves. We cannot mutually recognise each other unless we are treating each other as equals. However, in modernity this shared life world of Habermas has been colonised. The individualistic virus has led humans to mutually recognise others only if they can be a means to achieve the individuals ends of benefit, security and sustainability (which ensure reproduction or business as usual) or by preventing people recognising themselves as humans. Ironically, the part that has accumulated and appropriated most of the objects and forces is in a position of power to recognise others as citizens, terrorists and right holders. Objectively and Subjectively looking at the mirror the Latin American Agency perceived order and balance in the inanimate world and reciprocity, sacredness, as humans in the Animate, Natural, Supernatural and Social world. It is precisely this interaction developed by the Latin American Agency between Objectivity and Subjectivity processes, between the part and the whole, between eidetic and procedural memories of the past, the present and of the infinite that mutually recognises humanity what makes the Latin American Agency reflexive, able not to ruled the world but to change it, by having a clear sense of orientation towards the future. This new framework has been internalised as a frame of reference.

The key ingredient that Habermas might add to Guardiola-Rivera’s position in order to describe the key processes of relationships of reciprocity found in his theory entails the mutual recognition of individuals. Subjective Recursivity can only be achieved if I mutually recognise other agents. If I recognise other agents social and system integration will be achieved, respect for the dignity will be promoted, reward of virtues, talents and merit will be encouraged and compensation due to violations and injustice could also be acknowledged.

Then it follows that the key to liberate ourselves of the Individualist Security State lies not only in using violent or nonviolent action to change and transform the individualist dominant and exploitative structure but rather in recovering and developing a proactive attitude of Objective and Subjective recursivity towards the external world as a precondition to go the paradise, to build an inclusive strategy while at the same time controlling the risks and problems of the future.


This essay has described different events in Latin America in the last century that has led to the emergence of an Individualist Security State as well as the resistance of an emergence Agency. Objective and Subjective recursive relationships of the external world offers a new procedure, principles and core processes that will allow us to discuss the type of society, the paradise we want to have and how to get there.  These principles must be internalised by Structure and Agency once it “wakes up” from the dream as a precondition not only to liberate itself from these prison, but also in order to build the good society. An Agency with these frameworks is able to control the infinite, the future, while at the same time, it mutually recognises others as humans. The strategy (means or how) to achieve the good society (end or paradise) should be left to individuals themselves to decide through dialogue and communicative rationality once these core processes are in place. The tasks of the intellectuals is to be ready to provide agency with the right questions to ask to those in power about what type of society they want to have.



Bourdieu, Pierre (1990) In other words : essays towards a reflexive sociology, Polity

Archer, Margaret (1995) Realist Social Theory: the Morphogenetic Approach, Cambridge University Press.

Archer, Margaret (2000) Being Human: The Problem of Agency, Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, Jean (1992) “Discourse Ethics and Civil Society.” Civil Society and Political Theory. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [Accessed on 02 Jan. 2012]. Available at: <;.

Guardiola-Rivera, Oscar (2010) What if Latin America ruled the world? London & New York: Bloomsbury.

Habermas, Jurgen. (1990) “Justice and Solidarity: on the Discussion concerning Stage 6.” The Moral Domain Essays in the Ongoing Discussions between Philosophy and Social Sciences. [Accessed on 02 Jan. 2012]. Available at: <;.

The Corporation [18/23] Expansion Plan – YouTube. Dir. Mark Achbar. YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. [Accessed on. 21 Nov. 2011]. Available at: <;.

Rivera, Enrique. “Enrique Rivera Y La Historia Interrumpida Del Proyecto Cybersyn – YouTube.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. [Accessed on 21 Nov. 2011]. Available at: <;.

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[1] Goldblatt, David. “What If Latin America Ruled the World?, By Oscar Guardiola-Rivera – Reviews – Books – The Independent.” Review. The Independent [London] 13 Aug. 2010, Arts and Entertainment sec. The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide News | Newspaper. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. <;.

[2] Jürgen Habermas (born June 18, 1929) is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of communicative rationality and the public sphere.

[3] Fernando Henrique Cardoso born June 18, 1931 – also known by his initials FHC – was the 34th President of the Federative Republic of Brazil for two terms from January 1, 1995 to December 31, 2002. He is an accomplished sociologist, professor and politician. He was awarded in 2000 with the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

[4] Multinational Corporations

[5] Salvador Allende Gossens (26 July 1908 – 11 September 1973) was a Chilean physician and politician who is generally considered the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a country in Latin America. Allende adopted the policy of nationalization of industries and collectivization. Amidst strikes by the far-right Patria y Libertad and CIA opposition under the Nixon administration, as well as by militant leftist opposition, demonstrations were held for and against Allende’s presidency.

[6] Pedro Vuskovic Bravo (February 25, 1924 – May 10, 1993) was a Chilean economist of Croatian descent, political figure, minister and author of the economic plan implemented by Salvador Allende during his government.

[7] Raúl Prebisch (April 17, 1901 – April 29, 1986) was an Argentine economist known for his contribution to structuralist economics, in particular the Singer–Prebisch thesis that formed the basis of economic dependency theory. He is sometimes considered to be a neo-Marxist though this label is misleading.

[8] Economic Commision for Latin America

[9] International Monetary Fund

[10]Iron cage is a sociological concept introduced by Max Weber ( 21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory and it refers to the increased rationalization inherent in social life, particularly in Western capitalist societies. The “iron cage” thus traps individuals in systems based purely on teleological efficiency, rational calculation and control.


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