Stabb has produced an interesting and provocative work on the search for the essence of the Hispanic American spirit. He examines the publications of a large and important group of Spanish American authors who have pursued this quest for hemispheric identity and in more recent times for their own individual and national identity. As a literary point of focus, the study centers on the essays that are “the intellectual expression of what may rightfully be considered a genuine revolution . . . against that view of human affairs which holds that the totality of man’s existence may be empirically analyzed and understood” (p. 6).
His treatment begins with those pensadores of the late nineteenth century who described and diagnosed national problems within the perspective of the Positivism and scientism then current. Special attention is given to the work of C. O. Bunge and José Ingenieros of Argentina, Alcides Arguedas of Bolivia and P. García Calderón of Peru. The revolt against this restrictive tendency is described through an examination of the writings of José E. Rodó, Justo Sierra, José Vasconcelos, and Antonio Caso. It is unfortunate that in this connection the critical work of Alejandro Korn and Coriolano Alberini was not included.
In the chapter bearing the title “America Rediscovered,” Stabb begins a more precise delineation of the positive search which the “revolutionaries” undertake in attempting to discover and define the uniqueness of the New World. Indigenism and telluricism emerge as important themes in the works of Ricardo Rojas, Alfonso Reyes, and others. The chapter also demonstrates the influence of José Ortega y Gasset and Waldo Frank on those in quest of their identity as Hispanic Americans. In this chapter as well as later chapters, however, one misses an explicit reference to the difference between the impact of Ortega’s work in Argentina through the 1930s and its influence in Mexico following the Spanish Civil War.
“The New Humanism and the Left” seeks to establish “that a numerous, articulate, and—on occasion—influential group of Spanish American writers have [sic] embraced the ideology and program of the extreme left for reasons which are often ignored by writers who are not well grounded in Spanish America’s past and present and who are insensitive to Marxism’s intellectual and spiritual attraction” (p. 103). To substantiate this interpretation, Stabb discusses the views of several well-known Peruvian leftists, including Gonzalez Prada, Mariátegui, Orrega, and Haya de la Torre, as well as two Argentines, Martínez Estrada and Murena. His analysis provides convincing evidence in support of his claim concerning the significant differences between Communism and the new Hispanic American left, for the latter rejects both economic determinism and capitalism, because the basic purpose of the new left is to formulate a creative humanism through which America’s destiny can be discovered and fulfilled.
The concluding chapters trace the dramatic development of the quest for identity in more recent decades through the writings of Argentine and Mexican writers—Erro, Mallea, and Canal Feijoó in the former group and Ramos, Zea, Paz, Carrión, and Uranga in the latter. There is also brief mention of writers in Chile, Peru, and Cuba. The thought of these men is treated with sensitivity to the complexity of the issues as well as intelligent awareness of the philosophical influences from which their concepts have emerged.
This work makes several outstanding contributions. It clarifies the influence exerted on leftist political tendencies by the indigenism and telluricism often incorporated into these tendencies. It recognizes the importance of Positivism, existentialism, and phenomenology as philosophical influences in the thought of many Spanish American writers. It analyzes the impact of Ortega and Waldo Frank on Latin American thought and gives enough extensive critical summaries and analyses concerning the more significant writers to qualify as a useful reference work. Lastly it offers a perceptive survey of Latin American intellectual trends as these move in the direction of a new humanism.