Marcos Aguinis and Argentine Intellectuals

Marcos Aguinis is a contemporary Argentine public intellectual who became Secretary of Culture after the country’s “return” to democracy in 1983. Following the military dictatorship’s ousting from power, a reign that had devastatingly brought the infamous terror of El Proceso, President Raúl Alfosín handpicked Aguinis to fill this state ministry, which he coincidentally thereby inaugurated. In this government capacity, Aguinis, the public intellectual and best-selling Argentine author, created PRONDEC, a state program to democratize culture. Aguinis saw the democratization of culture as a necessary accompaniment to the democratization of politics, which he envisioned as jointly contingent on Argentina’s reaching its centuries-long awaited destiny of being counted among the world’s modern western nation-states.

In my paper, I situate Aguinis within the larger trajectory of public intellectuals in his country and also globally, who bridge the realms of politics and culture, and as such, also straddle and often struggle with the relationship between politics and democracy, leadership and empowerment of the people. I conceive of Aguinis as moreover participating in a vertical conversation between five generations of Argentine public intellectuals who have continuously additionally struggled with the emergence of Argentina’s desired, as well as perceived deserved, national identity. My paper situates Aguinis as thereby participating in this vertical cohort of Argentine intellectuals who have explicitly looked toward Europe and specifically, to the ideals and programs of the French Enlightenment, as guides for Latin America’s own creation of nation-states. The very question of whether or not Latin America experienced an Enlightenment has also been recently raised by scholars, but I argue has quite prominently been at the very core of each generation of the Argentine public intellectuals’ conscientious programs of nation-building, since the country’s realized independence from Spain in 1810.