The name Leopoldo Zea in the title of this work indicates that the primary thrust of this study is the system of ideas of Mexico’s foremost living contemporary philosopher and historian of ideas. The author’s intent is one of synthesis; an attempt to survey several perspectives, all bearing on the same theme of “Mexicanness.” In his introduction, Lipp studies the psychological and sociological efforts that speak of the Mexican’s being or manner of being. Having set the stage, the author’s emphasis then becomes Leopoldo Zea’s philosophizing, in which “Mexicanness” becomes the point of departure for the creation of a New World philosophy of history.
The introductory chapters on the psychoanalytical and sociological approaches to “Mexicanness” are instructive. Here the author discusses the works of Francisco González Pineda, Jorge Carrión, Jorge Segura Millán, Santiago Ramírez, Octavio Paz, and other thinkers who have dealt with the psychology of the Mexican and the themes of machismo, Malinchismo, inferiority, and identity. In studying the sociological approach, Lipp surveys the ideas of Manuel Gamio, Erich Fromm, María Elvira Bermúdez, Oscar Lewis, and César Garizurieta. Mexican characterology is reviewed, with the author denoting interesting and dominant themes from “mestizo marginality” to hembrismo (the female counterpart of machismo, or an exaggerated passiveness and submissiveness).
The remainder of the book deals with Leopoldo Zea, the thinker who, according to Lipp, best represents that entire group of intellectuals who, in the early 1950s, dedicated themselves to probing the essence of the Mexican (so-called lo mexicano school). Here Lipp notes that the heritage of “Mexicanness” is for Zea only a point of departure for a journey that will take him from the particular Mexican circumstance to a universal awareness; to a New World philosophy that will provide modern man with a solution, or at least an understanding, of Western man’s crisis of alienation. In describing Zea’s thought, Lipp notes both Zea’s historicist perspective and his existentialist mood. Finally, in order to give Zea’s views full treatment, the author includes some summary comments of the critics of Zea (especially of Zea’s historiography).
The conclusion, although sympathetic to Zea, does call for a sociological analysis of the Mexican’s “national character” to counterbalance Zea’s philosophical speculations. Lipp’s most telling observation is that Zea is not doing philosophy proper, but is philosophizing from and about history in order to solve social and political problems. For the reviewer this means that, in the final analysis, Zea would love to leap from his academic robe and nakedly face the problems of dependency, underdevelopment, imperialism, and other matters of urgency; he wants to be a social reformer and critic. But, alas, his credentials, training, and position will not allow for this ultimate act of existential freedom.