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The Moral Force of Indigenous Politics


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  • Page extent: 366 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.5 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521703475)

The Moral Force of Indigenous Politics

Tracing the political origins of the Mexican indigenous rights movement, from the colonial encounter to the Zapatista uprising, and from Chiapas to Geneva, Courtney Jung locates indigenous identity in the history of Mexican state formation. She argues that indigenous identity is not an accident of birth but a political achievement that offers a new voice to many of the world’s poorest and most dispossessed. The moral force of indigenous claims rests not on the existence of cultural differences, or identity, but on the history of exclusion and selective inclusion that constitutes indigenous identity. As a result, the book shows that privatizing or protecting such groups is a mistake and develops a theory of critical liberalism that commits democratic government to active engagement with the claims of culture. This book will appeal to scholars and students of political theory, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology studying multiculturalism and the politics of culture.

COURTNEY JUNG is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics at The New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College. She is the author of Then I Was Black: South African Political Identities in Transition (2000), which was the winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award 2001.



Ian Shapiro


Russell Hardin   Stephen Holmes   Jeffrey Isaac
John Keane      Elizabeth Kiss      Phillipe Van Parijs
Philip Pettit

As the twenty-first century begins, major new political challenges have arisen at the same time as some of the most enduring dilemmas of political association remain unresolved. The collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War reflect a victory for democratic and liberal values, yet in many of the Western countries that nurtured those values there are severe problems of urban decay, class and racial conflict, and failing political legitimacy. Enduring global injustice and inequality seem compounded by environmental problems; disease; the oppression of women and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities; and the relentless growth of the world’s population. In such circumstances, the need for creative thinking about the fundamentals of human political association is manifest. This new series in contemporary political theory is needed to foster such systematic normative reflection.

   The series proceeds in the belief that the time is ripe for a reassertion of the importance of problem-driven political theory. It is concerned, that is, with works that are motivated by the impulse to understand, think critically about, and address the problems in the world, rather than issues that are thrown up primarily in academic debate. Books in the series may be interdisciplinary in character, ranging over issues conventionally dealt with in philosophy, law, history, and the human sciences. The range of materials and the methods of proceeding should be dictated by the problem at hand, not the conventional debates or disciplinary divisions of academia.

Other books in the series

Ian Shapiro and Casiano Hacker-Cordón (eds.)

Democracy’s Edges

Brooke A. Ackerly

Political Theory and Feminist Social Criticism

Clarissa Rile Hayward

De-Facing Power

John Kane

The Politics of Moral Capital

Ayelet Shachar

Multicultural Jurisdictions

John Keane

Global Civil Society?

Rogers M. Smith

Stories of Peoplehood

Gerry Mackie

Democracy Defended

John Keane

Violence and Democracy

Kok-Chor Tan

Justice without Borders

Peter J. Steinberger

The Idea of the State

Michael Taylor

Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection

Sarah Song

Justice, Gender, and the Politics of Multiculturalism

Georgia Warnke

After Identity

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The Moral Force of
Indigenous Politics

Critical Liberalism and the Zapatistas


Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi

Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, USA
Information on this title:

© Courtney Jung 2008

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2008

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Jung, Courtney, 1965–
The moral force of indigenous politics : critical liberalism and the Zapatistas / Courtney Jung.
   p.   cm. – (Contemporary political theory)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-521-87876-0 (hardback) – ISBN 978-0-521-70347-5 (pbk.)
1. Indians of Mexico – Ethnic identity. 2. Indians of Mexico – Politics and government. 3. Minorities – Mexico. 4. Multiculturalism – Mexico. 5. Mexico – Ethnic relations. 6. Mexico – Politics and government. I. Title. II. Series.
F1219.3.E79J86   2008
323.1197′072–dc22        2007052905

ISBN 978-0-521-87876-0 hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-70347-5 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for
the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or
third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication
and does not guarantee that any content on such
Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

This book is for Patrick Macklem


  Acknowledgments page   xi
  Introduction 1
1   Stepping behind the claims of culture: constructing identities, constituting politics 34
2   Internal colonialism in Mexican state formation 79
3   “The politics of small things” 117
4   From peasant to indigenous: shifting the parameters of politics 147
5   The politics of indigenous rights 183
6   Critical liberalism 233
  Appendix: tables – indigenous population 295
  Bibliography 301
  Index 347


The book I have written is not really the book I set out to write. It has grown in scope, and it is more politically charged than I anticipated. It has surprised me, but I have tried to be honest in following the thread. If I have done my job properly, none of it will seem surprising to the reader. I hope it will even seem obvious, like common sense.

   Research for this book was conducted with a fellowship from the Fulbright New Century Scholar Program and an award from The New School faculty development fund. I am grateful to those people who made that work possible, including Patti McGill Peterson, Micaela Iovine, and Judith Friedlander. I started writing the book at the Institute for Advanced Study in September 2001. I am indebted to Adam Ashforth, Joan Scott, and Michael Walzer, who were generous with their time and had an important impact on the arguments I try to make here.

   I did not finish writing the book until November 2007, and between 2001 and 2007 my debts to friends and colleagues who read all or parts of the manuscript have mounted exponentially. Each person deserves a paragraph of thanks or some more tangible expression of my gratitude. Perhaps an expensive gift. Here, however, I can do little more than list the people who have helped me research, think about, and write this book: Arjun Appadurai, Andrew Arato, Dick Bernstein, Jay Bernstein, Akeel Bilgrami, Michael Brown, Wendy Brown, Simone Chambers, Jean Cohen, Casiano Hacker Cordón, Simon Critchley, Rodrigo Elizararrás, Carlos Forment, Jonathan Fox, Nancy Fraser, Judith Friedlander, Phil Green, Victoria Hattam, Clarissa Hayward, David Howarth, Mala Htun, James Ingram, John Kane, Ira Katznelson, Ernesto Laclau, Alex Livingston, Margara Millán, Sankar Muthu, Jenny Nedelsky, Guillermo de la Peña, Damon Peters, David Plotke, Deborah Poole, Ross Poole, Dan Rabinowitz, Adolph Reed, Sanjay Ruparelia, Jan Rus, Frans Schryer, Jillian Schwedler, Charles Tilly, Anna Tsing, James Tully, Melissa Williams, Elisabeth Wood, and Aristide Zolberg. My greatest intellectual debts are to Joe Carens, who is generous even when he disagrees; Rogers Smith, a consistent voice of reason and support; Jim Scott, who has commented on and taught the manuscript for the last couple of years; and Jim Miller, who read the earlier chapters with a careful editorial and theoretical eye.

   As ever, I am grateful to Ian Shapiro for his time, his critical comments, and the generosity of his spirit. As a graduate student, I did not realize that the role of advisor is a lifelong commitment. He continues to influence my reasoning and commitments in more ways than I am aware, despite my dogged insistence on using the term “critical liberalism” instead of “democratic engagement” as he recommended. He may well have been right, but I have a recalcitrant nature.

   I am particularly grateful to those informants who have also been colleagues in the research and writing of this book. Marcos Matías Alonso, Araceli Burguete, Margarita Gutiérrez, Luis Hernández Navarro, and Xóchitl Leyva Solano went far beyond answering my questions about the history and politics of the Mexican indigenous rights movement, commenting thoughtfully on my arguments, and recommending paths for further research. The critical eye they have trained on themselves and their own movement generated insights and lines of thought that seem unlikely in other settings, with other people. I place my hope for the transformative potential of indigenous politics in them, and in people like them.

   I also owe tremendous thanks to the research assistants who have taken on both organizational and intellectual tasks in helping me with this book, looking up references and arguing with me over the persuasiveness of particular arguments within the book: Rodrigo Chacón Aguirre, Aleida Ferreyra Barreiro, Bill Gordon, Kristine Jones, Noreen O’Sullivan, Renata Segura, and Shao Loong Yin.

   By far my greatest debt is to Patrick Macklem, who has read every word of this book, over and over again, and who has talked through every idea. His spirit suffuses each page. Though he does not agree with every argument I have made, he has made every argument better. Without him it would have been a very different book, and I would be a different person. This book is for him, with all my love and respect. To our beloved children, Riel, Sam, and Serena, I offer apologies. They have never known me when I was not writing this book and can hardly anticipate how sorry they will be when I turn the full bore of my attention on them. I am grateful to my friends and family, and especially to my parents, for their love, support, and patience.

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