Forment, Carlos A.
Forment, Carlos A.
Education: Harvard University, Ph.D., 1991.
New School for Social Research, New York, NY, associate professor of sociology; Centro de Investigación y Documentación de la Vida Pública, Buenos Aires, Argentina, director; served as a member of the School for Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ.
Carlos A. Forment is a writer and educator who graduated from Harvard University with a doctoral degree in 1991, then joined the faculty at the School for Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Forment was also the director of the Centro de Investigación y Documentación de la Vida Pública in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and an associate professor of sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York, New York. His primary areas of interest in academics and research revolve around the development of democracy in various Latin American nations, with a particular focus on contemporary Argentina. His book, Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900: Volume 1, Civic Selfhood and Public Life in Mexico and Peru, was published in 2003 by the University of Chicago Press.
Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900 presents readers with the theory that democracy actually flourished in pockets across Latin America during the nineteenth century, despite the fact that the region is viewed as a prime example of political chaos and diverse rule during this time period. However, Forment bases his argument firmly in Tocquevillian theory, which studies "the evolution of life in four public terrains: civil society, political society, economic society, and the public sphere," stated History: Review of New Books contributor Victor M. Uribe-Uran. With Tocquevillian theory, the backbone of much of Forment's political theory, he suggests that even amid the well-known, chaotic politics, parts of Mexico in particular, and to a lesser extent Peru, enjoyed the rewards of democracy thanks to small groups of citizens who pulled together voluntarily to lay a foundation for democracy on a civic level. These volunteer groups discussed various ways of improving their lives, including the development of various statutes to regulate citizens' rights, elections, and other issues that affected public welfare. They held debates and made their decisions based on a standard, democratic voting system, in which the majority opinion held sway. Both the rights of the individuals and that of the collective were identified as important, and they attempted to determine the best methods to protect these rights. According to Forment, this behavior became ingrained as habit in many individuals. However, many participants in these democratic groups were also aware that, as successful as their organizations were within their own regions, they would not work as well in areas where the people in charge were less likely to give everyone a voice in their method of government. This awareness resulted in a lack of further development of democratic principles across Latin America during the nineteenth century. Successful examples of democracy in Latin America remained isolated rather than spreading to other regions.
It is difficult for Forment to determine just how many individuals or communities were successful participants in this development of democratic ideals and practices. Newspapers from the time period give some insight into how many of these democratic organizations existed both in Mexico and Peru, but there are varied reports and records regarding the number of members in each of the groups. However, José C. Moya, in a review for the Historian, noted that "Forment's data do show a remarkable growth in secondary associations, their functions, and—in Mexico—their geographical diffusion." As for the spark that ignited these community organizations, Forment supposes that the Jesuits had a strong influence, as their teachings encourage seeking ways to achieve goodness through daily life. As a result, those individuals sought goodness through a sense of cooperation and fair behavior with their neighbors and associates. Moya also stated, "Overall, Democracy in LatinAmerica, 1760-1900, offers a masterful combination of political sociology and history." Paulo Drinot, in a review for the Journal of Latin American Studies, concluded that "Forment brings together a large body of evidence to back up his argument but his treatment of the historical evidence is unconvincing and his failure to address the fact that, as he … admits, ‘Latin Americans practiced democracy in daily life and ranked each other accordingly, except in the case of indigenous peoples, blacks, mixed-bloods and women’ … raises the question of whether there is much to celebrate about Latin America's democratic tradition."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October 1, 2004, Stuart F. Voss, review of Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900: Volume 1, Civic Selfhood and Public Life in Mexico and Peru, p. 1272.
Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History, July 1, 2006, Brian Loveman, review of Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900, p. 182.
Contemporary Sociology, November 1, 2004, review of Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900, p. 743.
Historian, March 22, 2007, José C. Moya, review of Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900, p. 112.
History: Review of New Books, September 22, 2005, Victor M. Uribe-Uran, review of Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900, p. 14.
Journal of Latin American Studies, May 1, 2005, Paulo Drinot, review of Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900, p. 387.
Journal of Social History, September 22, 2006, Sarah C. Chambers, review of Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900, p. 253.
Social Anthropology, October 1, 2006, Trevor Stack, review of Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900, p. 408.
New School for Social Research Web site,http://www.newschool.edu/ (August 13, 2008), faculty profile.
OpenDemocracy Web site,http://www.opendemocracy.net/ (August 13, 2008), author profile.