Among the countries of Latin America Paraguay is often cited as one of the clearest instances of a true national state, i.e., it is no mere political structure formed by accidents of time and preserved by the vested interests of bureaucracy but is rather a country whose people have a sharp sense of relationship with each other and a perhaps sharper sense of separateness from their neighbors. The development of this sense of national consciousness in Paraguay is the theme of Günter Kahle’s doctoral dissertation.
In an introduction Dr. Kahle discusses briefly the difficulties of a truly inclusive definition of nationalism, for the nature of nationalism varies greatly among the various Latin American countries. For this problem he has no resolution. The development of a Paraguayan consciousness he ascribes to a series of factors. Of primary importance were isolation, the immigration of few Europeans, the presence of a single native culture with a social structure that facilitated the mutual adjustment of Indian and European, and the emergence of an upper social stratum of mestizos without replacement or significant competition by newcomers from Spain. Of secondary importance were the need for defense against bandeirantes, the long struggle to prevent Jesuit dominance through control of missions and education, and irritation with the pretensions of control of Buenos Aires. Perhaps of tertiary importance was a series of measures and incidents which further strengthened the local oligarchy. Particularly effective were the right to elect a governor in emergencies and the long series of troubles culminating in the Comunero wars of the mid-eighteenth century. All of these factors worked to form a relatively well-knit local interest that in 1810 was different from the rest of the Río de la Plata and prepared to demand at least autonomy from the Port.
The development of a strong regional particularism into nationalism came after 1810. It was not inevitable and came about through the three dictatorships of the early and middle nineteenth century. Most of all, Dr. Kahle would give credit to the force and conscious policy of Dr. Francia, with the first years of whose administration the book really ends. “Nicht die Nation errichtete den Staat, sondern der paraguayische Staat, verkörpert durch Francia und sein beiden Nachfolger, formte die paraguayische Nation….”
Dr. Kahle’s thesis is organized and presented with care. It has further the thoroughness that has been traditional in German scholarship.