Religion without redemption

Here is the review of the book Religion without redemption of Luis Martínez Andrade that I posted a few weeks ago in Circle of Poetry (also in the Journal Latin american Society). It has the peculiarity that the text has been revised by my great friend Gemma Towers, to which I am very grateful. At the time, the review did not arrive in time prior to the publication in the magazine, among other things, because I —that scoundrel—, I sent it the day before without warning.

Religión sin redención

It’s amazing that they can fit so many social thinkers, in a book so small. I say little book, for its size format and not to be very long in pages, but we already know that many of these small books, at times, become great books, or rather, in small and big books. It’s nice for a student of Sociology to be able to read how it combines the thinking of many social theorists, from classics like Marx and Weber, to the considered postestructuralistas as Baudrillard and Foucault. Luis Martínez Andrade, brilliantly, combines a handful of theories from different paradigms sociological. Today, the sociology should be understood as a science multiparadigmática. The aggregate of the literature from a sociological standpoint, it is already very abundant as to try to cover everything. That’s why, every time there are new trials, the interested reader ―especially the initiate― thanks always the idea enlightening that accompanies the reference of previous theories employed. It is as well as can learn the value that each theory has ―whether classic or more modern― in the different contexts where they return to be re-interpreted to provide explanations more successful on the social phenomena of our time.

Following the advice mertoniano not to confuse the systematic of sociological theory with the history of sociological theory, I think that is a exercise healthy to unlearn a little the chronological sequence with which many manuals have taught us. The sequential learning of the great social thinkers in the manuals of sociological theory, involves many times unconsciously run the risk of postponing the theory of each author to his time, and to think that you were always overcome by the theories of his successors. This makes the cumulatividad[1] in sociological theory is much more complex than the other theories such as physics, chemistry, biology… But, on the other hand, has the advantage of being able to rescue of the theorists who came before us those things that we overlooked (or were not conveniently interpreted in his time) and that today they may have greater validity for explaining the social reality, whose properties are constantly changing, because the social processes are above all the product of the tensions and conflicts that arise from power relations. “Domination, struggle and resistance” ―says Martinez Andrade― make up the social fabric” (p. 54). This is not, therefore, a simple formula, but rather the constant practice of the surveillance of epistemology proposed by Bourdieu, which is opposite to the teoricismo and to the methodologism. The social practice for Bourdieu is a good example to reveal the mechanisms of domination and publicize. This way of proceeding would serve us, for example, to remove the speeches of the type “end of history[2]. To this day they still have not finished the wars and bloody revolutions; and globalization and economic policy do not satisfy all the people equally on the Planet; quite to the contrary of what he posited Fukuyama at the end of the last century, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The book of Luis Martínez Andrade has already a title suggestive: what is Religion without redemption? Apart from that, religion is a subject that runs through the whole of the book in its two antagonistic functions: as opium of the people or as a vehicle of resistance and hope, the book is primarily a critique of the colonialism of power, capitalism and eurocentrism. But before continue with the review, it is worth knowing a little about the author.

Religión sin redenciónIn the prologue that performs Renán Vega Cantor[3] -which, by the way, your re-reading is very useful once you just read the book as a summary and clear of the main ideas of the author – we can see that we are facing “a young thinker whose inspiration, intellectual nourishes the most refined critical thinking, universal” in Latin America. Luis Martinez Andrade is a sociologist by the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, where he received the distinction Cum Laude and pro bono. He is currently studying for a Doctorate in Sociology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales of Paris. In 2009, she received the First Prize of the International Competition of Essay “Thinking against the current”,awarded by the Cuban Institute of the Book in its sixth edition, for his essay: The mall as a figure paradigmatic of the speech neocolonial.

Religion without redemption, as says its author at the very beginning of the book, was born out of the anger on the one hand, and of the hope on the other. “Rage by the plight of poverty that afflict the greater part of mankind, and the terrible levels of exploitation that are edging out the destruction of human life and the Planet” (p. 22). The book compiles a good number of essays that are grouped in two parts: the first, Entelechies and Cathedrals, is a critical interpretation of modernity is hegemonic and the dynamics of the capital; the second part, Utopia and Liberation, it is a story of the critical proposals (trans-modernity, bio-civilization, ecosocialismo, etc) that have been formed in Latin America.

From categories such as the world-system capitalist Wallerstein, the coloniality of power, Quijano and the modernity of Dussel, Martínez Andrade tells us how the capitalism, modernity, and coloniality emerged simultaneously from 1492 onwards. The “discovery” of America, understood as a myth built by the european narrative, marked the dynamics of endogenous and exogenous of the different societies and represented the foundation in the collective imaginary of subjectivity in modern western. The coloniality (domination, racism, humiliation, imposition, violence) should be understood as a form of socio-historical determined geo-politically (p. 28). In modern subjectivity, inaugurated in 1492, “the ego conquiro (I conquered) precedes in nearly a century to the ego cogito (I think) proposed by Descartes in 1636 (p. 32). Thus, 1492 marks the date of the birth of a new ontology, which tries to implant the superiority of western as will to power. The conquest of the Americas involved not only a new relation of power, racial, and ontological in the genesis of the world-system, but also a relationship of power, epistemic. “The social sciences were another instrument in the service of the colonial power” (p. 43).

World-system and coloniality of power are contemporary to the formation of modern subjectivity since their logos hegemonic is mediated by social relations of control, domination and exploitation. The coloniality of power as a critical concept gives an account of the dependence on historical-structural and the specific characteristics of the way societal in Latin america. The singularities of the native peoples were subsumed violently to the absolute universal western. In this process of identification and classification of the indian, he never ceased to fight and the resistance to the colonial power never gave in. However, from the conquest of America was a new relationship of power not only on social level but on the level epistemic. (p. 37).

Making use of the council of Bourdieu -as already mentioned-, the surveillance epistemic, Martínez Andrade reminds us that “the crimes carried out by the ego conquiro of the subjectivity of modern western should not be omitted in a deconstruction-liberating, since that would reinforce the impunity historical-cultural discourses – colonial”. (p. 33).

Martinez Andrade makes the difference colonial epistemic as a starting point to critically analyze the paradigms of civilization of Latin america. So, far from thinking of Religion without redemption as a project dispersed over against capitalism, first requires a situation, not exclusively ideological, but geo-political and historical. It can be said that in the retrospective analysis that gives rise to the book, there will be reflections different depending on which continent the reader to their roots, but need not be divergent, on the contrary, Martínez Andrade proposes a “communication symmetrical between peoples” (p. 108) where we recognize other visions of the world, breaking the single thought of the hegemonic paradigm eurocentrista, this is, recognizing the thought-another.

An example of the criticism that Martinez Andrade makes the eurocentrism we can see it in that makes The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism (1904-05), the most important work and more conocidade Max Weber. Weber describes the important relationship between the ethos of religion and the development of the capitalist system. Weber showed that protestantism, and particularly calvinism, were instrumental to the birth of the spirit of western capitalism, although calvinism is not essential to the reproduction of the economic system. However, Martinez Andrade poses a critique of the work of Weber, for he does not cease to be a proposal eurocentrista. Martinez Andrade is in agreement with Weber in recognizing a particular form of capitalism linked to the logic of the calculation, to the accumulation and to modern rationalism, however, disagree about the interpretation that makes Weber on the origin of capitalism: “In the perspective presented by Weber does not mention the importance of Latin America in the construction of modern capitalism. The discovery of America is a pivotal moment in the expansion of capitalism and “primitive accumulation”” (p. 46). This criticism should be studied with more depth. At the end of the review I will offer my point of view about it.

There are many concepts and categories of Martinez Andrade is worth in the first part of the book to unravel the mechanisms of power and domination subsumed in the hegemonic discourse eurocentrista. At the same time, is supported by a number of authors such as Karl Marx, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Enrique Dussel, Aníbal Quijano, Leonardo Boff, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois… concepts such as the “coloniality of power” of Quijano (2001) where they are articulated “race/job/gender” (Martínez Andrade also proposes the concept of “coloniality of doing”, where they are articulated “imaginary/double consciousness/habitus”); the imaginary, of Eduard Glissant (1997) as the symbolic construction by which a community defines itself; the double consciousness of Du Bois (1995) as the quandary that arises out of subjectivities (criollos and mestizos) built in the difference of colonial Latin America.; and the habitus of Bourdieu, which is essential for the analysis of the dominance, as a tool able to show the effects of the system on the making of the social individual. In this last category, Martínez Andrade adds some differences with respect to Bourdieu. While Bourdieu distinguishes between habitus of class, Martinez Andrade makes between the habitus of colonial class. “The habitus as a concept should not sustantivizarse but, on the contrary, must dialectically to show the tensions, struggles and contradictions inherent in the social relations, in this case, colonial” (p.40).

Through the concept world-system of Wallerstein (2003), Martínez Andrade tries to explain the origin of eurocentric social science. The birth of the world-system was, therefore, a geocultura determined which in turn led to a geopolitics of knowledge determined by the west, the “coloniality of knowledge”. Martinez Andrade used here, the term epistemicidio to refer to the process of separation between nature and the human being that ends up leading to a science without conscience.

Martinez Andrade makes it clear that the de-colonization remains a pending task. The processes of independence in the Latin american states never have been complete, nor have they been represented to the indigenous groups and afro-caribbeans a real release.

Unfortunately, the creation of the States is articulated to the transfiguration of the world-system modern, taking as its axis: France, Germany and England. The NINETEENTH century and the processes of independence continued to be in debt to the most vulnerable groups of the american continent. Throughout the NINETEENTH and TWENTIETH centuries, the elite creole administered-dependent States and, therefore, perpetuated the foundations of a specific “internal colonialism”. The coloniality internal, as internalized by the society as a whole, he despised deeply in the popular culture. In this sense we must understand Frantz Fanon (1991) where he postulated that in underdeveloped countries there is a real bourgeoisie, but a sort of little caste with sharp teeth, greedy and voracious, dominated by the spirit usurer and that he is happy with the dividends that assures them of the colonial power; therefore, these elites are caricatures of Europe. (p. 73).

Away from reductionism, the philosophy of liberation is essential for a real project of emancipation in Latin America. The philosophy of liberation emerged in the seventies of last century as “a project (ethical, cultural, epistemic, political, economic, etc) based on principles and processes-practical discourse that has as its goal or horizon of the human life in community and the conditions for which it is performed. The cry of the poor and of the Earth is central in the architectural epistemic-political” (p. 67). Martinez Andrade proposes the “method analéctico”, reason as the instrument of liberation (ratio liberationis) and the project transmoderno as a “new alliance” for the construction of a “new social pact” between beings-human and nature.

Unlike reductionism, postmodern, appeal to the reason as a weapon of struggle against the truths fetichizadas of the system. Trans-modernity can be read also under the proposed pluridiversalidad (Quijano, 2000), or eco-socialism (Löwy, 2005a), among others, where the excluded are the preferred option. […]

The exploitation and dispossession as the engine of capital must be fought in all aspects of the social life for a form of democratic organization – participatory. At the same time, the bio-power as a moral block in power must be confronted by an ethics of liberation. The task and the commitment to revolutionary should be on the side of the poor. (p. 68).

Martinez Andrade devotes a gap in your text to analyze social movements of Latin America, such as the Movement of the landless in Brazil and the neo-zapatista in Mexico, and the role of women in these movements: “the feminization of the social struggle”. These are presented as movements of anti-systemic large-scale they defy the power corrupted. Their fight has allowed to refocus the analysis, the strategies of resistance and the horizons of utopian civil society organizations, activists and intellectuals of the world.

The popular struggles in Latin America can not be simply analyzed under a eurocentric perspective, this is true for both the approaches of traditional sociology and the positivist as to the marxist theory classical or the bad-successful theories of postmodern culture, since the dynamics of endogenous processes of Latin american deserves the use of concepts and categories that are closer not only in our places of enunciation but also of our position in the material and symbolic production. (p. 75).

At the end of the first part of the book we can read the essay which I like more: The mall as a figure paradigmatic of the speech neocolonial. It does not mean that the other desmerezcan, or much less. Leaving aside the above-mentioned prize awarded to this essay, that already says a lot, it seems to me the more illustrative by what I said at the beginning of the review, that is to say, by the ability that has had Martinez Andrade integrate brilliant way to a good handful of authors with their theories and thoughts, putting them in relation, and composing harmonious way the mapping of the critical object of his essay: the mall.

The shopping centre (mall) is analyzed as the most paradigmatic of the hegemonic narrative of colonial, for its “settings symbolic of the social imaginary”, on the one hand, and by “the influence of transnational capital in the everyday life of the subjects,” on the other side. Martinez Andrade makes a succulent journey for the categories and conceptualizations of different theorists and schools of sociological: the one dimensional man of Marcuse and the analysis of the Frankfurt school, which showed that the consumption mass appeal consolidated the reification of the capitalist system (the culture becomes consumption and the merchandise is metamorphosed into a figure of poetic); the “theory of the leisure class” Thorstein Veblen as well as the practical fancy of the ruling class (“consumption as an expression of the social position is axial in the habits of the social classes”); The Distinction of Bourdieu (2002), whose main hypothesis is that “cultural practices are the materialization of a process of history built-in, and therefore, are the expression of a habitus specific”; the interpretation of Jean Baudrillard (2005) about the social system as “a complex of signs (denotativos) and symbols (connotative) in constant tension” (the concept of the object (commodity) has to Baudrillard’s four logics: the functional use-value, the mercantile, the symbolic value and the differential value of the sign. “The marks and logos give surplus value to the body”); Naomi Klein (2001) for whom the logo and the brand have become the image of the company, and “possess characteristics semiotic designating status, that is, participate actively in the process of social distinction”.

With respect to the story of modernity is hegemonic that represents the shopping center and the process of exclusion, to lay up a store of good analytical tools it is interesting reading of Michel Foucault (2005), which suggests that modernity, far from being the emancipation, is another form of repression (the speech modern takes implicit power relations that consolidate three systems of exclusion: the forbidden, the dichotomy between reason and madness and the dichotomy of truth and falsity); or the reading of David Harvey (1998), that puts great emphasis on the reproduction of the form of capitalism, looking for the incompatibilities, and the continuities between modernity and postmodernity.

It is more than sure that all this display of authors with their conceptualizations very -but very – summarized in the two paragraphs above is not sufficient to here understand the true meaning that Martinez Andrade gives them in your essay. For this reason consider it essential reading. Succinctly to the conclusion that the shopping center represents one of the most paradigmatic cases of the hegemonic narrative of domination and control, and contributes to what Ritzer called the McDonalización of the society.

In the second part of the book, Utopia and Liberation, is where Martinez Andrade makes an illustrative exhibition dedicated to the Philosophy and the Theology of Liberation as expressions of a “christianity of liberation” (Löwy 1998) to fight the gods of death idolised in a kind of messianism technological capitalist in its logic predatory reduces the social bond and destroys the environment. The main axis here is the Principle of Hope by Ernst Bloch[4], a text written between 1938 and 1947. Martinez Andrade considers that the Principle of Hope continues today theoretical elements significant for a criticism pertinent to the capitalist system.

The portentous emergence of the Principle of Hope lies in showing distinctly the effects of the more perverse of the capital: the ominous situation of misery and the terrible ecocide. We have argued that the eco-socialism as a utopia concrete must fight for the social emancipation and for the liberation of the planet. To disentangle the political and social struggles of the environmental issue it would be a mistake fateful. The Earth must be released and the whip of hunger is eliminated. (p. 127).

Ernst Bloch has been one of the main sources of inspiration for the founder of liberation theology, Gustavo Gutierrez. Martinez Andrade performs an analysis on the impact that it has had the Principle of Hope in so many other authors like Leonardo Boff, Enrique Dussel, Michäel Löwy and Slavoj Žižek, the authors admit that I did not know, and, thanks to Martinez Andrade is now very interesting things about them.

In the Principle of Hope has an essential role in the function of utopian, Bloch proposed as an essential tool for the construction of alternative counter-hegemonic. For Bloch the Principle of Hope and the role of utopian are intimately related to the “distress” and “existence,” expressions of the incomplete realization of the human being. “The human being seeks to perpetuate itself in the world” (p. 115). From different approaches, the psychological, the ontological and the social, Bloch deliberate about the appetite “of the effects of the expected” and understand the “active standby” as an element of messianic, “an” attitude face” that leaves doors ajar in the horizon of the future. In this sense, utopias of the subjects refer to the religious dimension. Bloch explains the relationship between the function of utopian and the ambivalence of religion: “religion can reinforce ideological and politically to a system of oppression, or, otherwise, religion can serve as a critical discourse to such domination” (p. 130). Thus, the religion can not be understood only as an “opium of the people”, as postulated by many theorists above. For Bloch, religion also has a function of subversive and construction of new practices emancipatory. “In the Beginning Hope the religious dimension is discussed in two senses: a) as a producer of images desiderativas consolidate the alienation, and (b) as “latency saving” that mobilizes the subject against the misery of the world” (p. 128).

The influence of Ernst Bloch, for example, it is interesting that in Michael Löwy, for whom “the visions of the world” can be of two types: the “ideological views” and the “utopian visions”. The first serve to legitimate and maintain the social order of the world, and the latter have a critical function and subversive oriented towards a reality not existing. Continuing with the conceptualization of “ideology total” Karl Mannheim[5], for Löwy, ideology, and utopia are all manifestations of the same phenomenon.

Martinez Andrade discusses in the rest of the text a good number of categories and projects born in the shelter of the Principle of Hope: The principle of responsibility by Hans Jonas; the concept of “florestanía” of Leonardo Boff; the project trans-modern of Dussel…

At the end of the chapter, The gunpowder of the dwarf. Reflections odd. The philosophy in contemporary politics, Martinez, Andrade, takes up the exegesis that made Löwy of Sur le concept d’histoire de Walter Benjamin to express his conviction that the theology of liberation should be at the service of the oppressed. The hope is that at any moment, “the dwarf”[6] you can reset the explosive charge and revolutionary historical materialism:

“with the help of the dwarf -and their bullets – we will be able to achieve human emancipation, that is to say, introduce the real state of exception, but this will finally be not one but a divine, but a cooperation between God and human beings” (p. 175).


Criticism and praise to Luis Martinez Andrade

The criticism of Martinez Andrade to The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism Weber on the origin of capitalism, deserves, at the very least, be thoughtful. No one should doubt that the discovery of America enabled the “rise of Europe”, particularly by the removal of valuable resources from the beginning of the SIXTEENTH century, which were transported and landed in Spain and Portugal, and then traded throughout the rest of Europe. The criticism of Martinez Andrade makes sense if you consider valid the premise of Wallerstein, that is to say, that the origin of the world-system modern (the formation, composition and dynamics of capitalism on a global scale) took place in the SIXTEENTH century, shortly after the discovery of America.

However, I think that the definition of capitalism that drove Weber is far from the that may be contained in the concept of world-system modern of Wallerstein. While the concept of Wallerstein comes from the theory of dependence , and it seems to me valid to explain the process of globalisation (or globalization) and the genesis of the unequal exchanges of power and knowledge on a global scale, capitalism as understood by Weber, implies the rationality formal, whose main features are: calculability, efficiency, predictability, technology, non-human, control, and consequences of irrational[7]. Weber described capitalism (along with the bureaucracies) as one of the great strengths racionalizadoras. I find it hard to situate the origin of capitalism as understood by Weber, in a period prior to the industrial Revolution. Therefore, the origin of capitalism can be understood as a special feature, european, which is not to say that the origin of the world-system modern proposed by Wallerstein is not a prerequisite or, above all, the system that enabled the conditions of possibility for its dissemination, but not the origin of capitalism as we understand it in our days.

In sum, the visions of capitalism, Weber, and Wallerstein seem to me to be incompatible. That said, I am not free of the risk that my interpretation is caught in a vicious circle eurocentrista. However, I have to admit, at least for the moment, the caveats that can be found to the criticism of Martinez Andrade, namely, the alleged importance of China in the world-system until the EIGHTEENTH century, referenced in the book by different authors such as André Gunder Frank (1975), Kenneth Pomeranz (2004), and Enrique Dussel (2004). The hypothesis that the industrial Revolution was possible thanks to the vacuum produced in the market which had hegemonized China and Hindostan, would require a more thorough analysis and not a little complex, which would take many more pages than this review can tell.

I just the review, in almost the same way I started, by highlighting one of the main virtues that I have found in Luis Martínez Andrade. For some time I have come thinking that there is not to obsess too much with plenty to read the classics. If we undertake the long task of reading all the classics―especially if we give them the definition of a classic to all those theorists who are no longer with us but have gone to fatten the books of the history of social thought― then, it will be more likely that we lose what they say the most current. The classics, as such, is devoted to theorizing about the social problems of his time. Today, the problems may have different properties, or be totally different. It does not mean that a rereading of the classics are not going to have any work heuristic. As it says in Merton, there are many theories of the classics that were blurred in the course of the first investigation. Only from re-readings later with new approaches allowed to obtain new increments that were more valid the initial theory. It is important not to fall into the trap of thinking that it makes a “discovery” when in reality it could be a “rediscovery”[8]. Of course, it is necessary to know the main ideas that have contributed to the classics. But ―and that’s why I say that there is not to obsess― on many occasions these main ideas of the classics you can learn by reading the most current. An excellent example of this is Religion without redemption of Luis Martínez Andrade.


Ruben Crespo

Student of Sociology at the UNED

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All dates with your author referenced here can be found the reader in the bibliography of the book of Luis Martínez Andrade.

[1] The cumulatividad should not be understood as a mere accumulation of perennial information. On the contrary, many times a revolutionary theory makes unraveling a whole “know how” accumulated over a zone of reality. The cumulatividad is, therefore, an advance very complex. In sociology, the sociological explanations more praise must exceed the least satisfactory. (GINER, S. 2010. Sociology. Ediciones Peninsula. q. 22).

[2] The end of History and the last man (The End of History and the Last Man) is a book by Francis Fukuyama, 1992, where he exposes the thesis that the History, as a struggle of ideologies, has ended, with a world final based on a liberal democracy that has been imposed after the end of the Cold War.

[3] Renán Vega Cantor is a historian. Professor of the National Pedagogical University of Bogotá, Colombia. Doctor of the University of Paris VIII. A graduate of the University of Paris I, History of Latin America.

[4] Martinez Andrade makes a brief but interesting biographical sketch of Ernst Bloch: “German jew and an atheist by conviction, was a student of George Simmel, and Max Weber. Attended between 1912 and 1914 to the circle that was headed by Max Weber, a group that also involved figures like Ferndinand Tönnies, Werner Sombart, Ernst Troeltsch, Paul Honigsheimy George Lukács. […] Bloch and Lukács arrived in may of 1912 to the city of Heidelberg with the idea of getting their qualifications and with the desire to participate in the intellectual production of that time. […] with the time, the two friends took paths different in their eschatological conceptions of the world and in their strategies-pragmatic policies. […] the passage from Lukács to marxism in 1918, he did nothing more than exacerbate those differences.


[5] Mannheim in his work Ideology and utopia (1929), distinguished between ideology and utopia. The ideology as conservative thought, which legitimizes the reality and that is own of the groups or social classes the privileged. The utopia as a thought projected towards the future and critical of the present, own of disadvantaged social groups. (Giner, S., Emilio Lamo de Espinosa and Cristóbal Torres Albero. 2006. Dictionary of sociology. Alianza Editorial. p. 516).

[6] it Was said that there was an automaton constructed in such a way that would be replicated to each move of a chess-player with a counter that will assure him of winning the game. A doll with outfit and Turkish having in the mouth a narguilé sat before the board placed on a large table. With a system of mirrors created the illusion that this table was for all sides transparent. But, in truth, there inside was sitting a dwarf corcovado that was a master in the game of chess and guided by means of a few threads the hand of the doll. Can you imagine an equivalent to this apparatus in philosophy. You should always win the puppet called historical materialism, being able to deal with any if you take the theology to its service, which, today, is small and ugly, and not be seen at all. (BENJAMIN, W. 2008. On the concept of history. Spanish translation by Alfredo Brotons Muñoz in Works, I, 2, pp. 303-318, Madrid, Abada, 2008)

[7] RITZER, George. 2011. Sociological theory classical. 6to Edition. Mexico: McGraw-Hill. pp. 249-250.

[8] MERTON, Robert K. 2002. Theory and Structure Social. Fund of Economic Culture. p. 25.

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