In Prospere’s Mirror, a major contribution to Latin American intellectual history, Richard Morse argues against the prevalent view that Latin Americans have been unable or unwilling to participate in modernity because they have resisted non-Iberian Western models. Morse maintains that North and South Americans share a common moral, intellectual, and spiritual matrix that can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Differences arose after the discovery of America, when Spain tried to adapt the particularities of the populations of the Western Hemisphere to a universal order in the light of natural law and in the interest of the common good. Latin American culture is informed by the moral and pragmatic choices made by Iberians in the sixteenth century. Latin Americans’ resistance to utilitarian and instrumental rationalities is not a sign of cultural inferiority, but an affirmation of a resilient moral tradition well suited to respond to the legitimation crisis of contemporary mass culture. Morse argues that Latin American intellectuals have begun to rediscover and to affirm their own cultural logic, and points to the intellectual tradition from Sarmiento to Mariátegui, the insights of comparative anthropologists, and the messages of contemporary Latin American literature.
Morse’s groundbreaking ideas have already been taken seriously by leading Spanish American and Brazilian intellectuals, including Octavio Paz and Antônio Cândido. It is hard to understand why this book has not yet been published in English.