Hypothesis of the Argentine National Identity


It is possible to find a connection between the structure of the Argentine national identity and the way such national identity exists today. In order to recognize its structure, the first difficulty is to find the main system of classification that organizes and defines the original, meaningful tale of the people from Argentina, or in other words, the main constitutive fibres that entwine the national woven fabric.


Like most nations, Argentina was basically organized during the second half of the 19th century based on the values and philosophy of Romanticism. Such ideas were the glue that joined the diversity of will of its people. In this sense, Argentina was shaped by discourses that crystallized stories of belonging. However, it is important to highlight the particularities of the Argentine case.


First of all, nationality, in the international community, is commonly held as the idea of a representative common ancestry, as a kind of original law that submits a symbolic lineage as true, thus establishing the nation as the fatherland. Nevertheless, in Argentina, the existence of different immigration waves from Europe and the desire of part of the Argentine population to be simultaneously from and in Europe, contributed to erase any continuity with ancient social groups, denying a real and symbolic relationship with communities placed in the former Argentinean land. For instance Alberdi, the mentor of constitution of 1853, pointed out that there was nothing useful for the Argentine nationality that could come from the Argentine Aboriginal (Alberdi, 1991). In other nations, the contrary happened, for instance in Mexico and Peru where a common national ancestor was inherent.

Second, even though religion is a supranational idea, in some countries it helped to organize national identity. However, this was not the Argentina case. This is related to the fact that Argentina, first named United Provinces of the La Plata River, was founded in 1810 under the ideas of the French Revolution and the United States Independence with ideas that were opposed to the inclusion of the spiritual approach in the management of public power. Furthermore, most fathers and referents of the Argentine nation were Masons and as such, they opposed the Catholic Church, the religion of Spain.


Third, sharing a common language and space contributed to building nationality. In Latin America, where the shared official language is Spanish, with some exceptions like Brazil, there was an attempt around 1816 to build a Latin American Nation, but this attempt collapsed. Among other external and internal reasons not to be analyzed here, the understanding of what a nation had to be in the international labour and trade division of that moment was that of a productive economic unit and this was not the case with Latin America, even though they shared a common language and space.

Fourth, the social pride of a successful productive process contributed to bringing the necessary common benefits that could incarnate a national identity. In Argentina, the glories of the agricultural export period form 1880 to 1930 were probably the most important basis for the Argentine identity. Nevertheless, such glories and benefits did not involve all Argentines. Furthermore, this process lasted only fifty years in the nearly two hundred years of Argentine history.

Fifth, the class consciousness of a belonging group can contribute to generate a national identity, as can be seen with the workers of the Peronist Argentina from 1945 to 1955. However, since this idea divided by activity or marginal other groups, almost half of the population was not encompassed within this definition of Argentina.

Finally, while strong abstract ideas like law, constitution, democracy or collective objectives, structured the national identity of nations such as United States, this was not the case in Argentina. The reason for this was that the mandate of Argentina was the ‘land of promise”, albeit where no clear or strict rules seem to have been present to regulate it. In addition, the lack of continuity of the Constitution’s presence and especially the dark, past tradition of military coupes, contributed to invertebrate this possibility.


Having analyzed the above mentioned six items, it is possible to conclude that the Argentine shared common ground was weak. This fact conditioned the structure of the Argentine social fabric, while this social interweaving was strengthened or completed by groups’ identities. These groups’ identities had as their main objective the “reproduction of the condition of production” (Althusser, 1971:56) of their identities. By this is commonly meant, to expand their identities, not to compromise them. Thus, it would be possible to think that sectarian political groups saw the openness of this national identity as the arena where they could impose or build their own definition. A definition which, like all definitions, was useful for the specific interests of certain social groups.


This opportunity would have let these local sectors create common spaces solely from their sector’s views and mission. As a consequence of this, there is a restriction in the articulation of different social groups because of political difference, limiting further transversal integration in favour of a partisan one. For instance, the classification between civilization and barbarism, Radical and Peronist, countryside and Buenos Aires, defined not only a political identification but also a philosophy, a way of being, an expression and a symbolic structure of what the Argentine national identity today is.


In this way, according to Susan Buck-Morris, “political parties in the state nations compete to seize the control of a pre-existing apparatus and in this way become the State” (Buck-Morris, 2000:40). However, also according to Buck-Morris, if they do not have these minimum shared frameworks, the parties’ policies can only be based on the enemy’s identification as “the political action by excellence” (Buck-Morris, 2000:31).

As result, in Argentina to talk about politics is still the same as to talk about nationality.

©Sebastian Guerrini, 2009