Makers of Democracy

A Transnational History of the Middle Classes in Colombia

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 8 illustrations Published: June 2019

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Andes, Sociology > Labor

In Makers of Democracy A. Ricardo López-Pedreros traces the ways in which a thriving middle class was understood to be a foundational marker of democracy in Colombia during the second half of the twentieth century. Drawing on a wide array of sources ranging from training manuals and oral histories to school and business archives, López-Pedreros shows how the Colombian middle class created a model of democracy based on free-market ideologies, private property rights, material inequality, and an emphasis on a masculine work culture. This model, which naturalized class and gender hierarchies, provided the groundwork for Colombia's later adoption of neoliberalism and inspired the emergence of alternate models of democracy and social hierarchies in the 1960s and 1970s that helped foment political radicalization. By highlighting the contested relationships between class, gender, economics, and politics, López-Pedreros theorizes democracy as a historically unstable practice that exacerbated multiple forms of domination, thereby prompting a rethinking of the formation of democracies throughout the Americas.


"This historicization of the relationship between middle classness and democracy enables the author to deliver a potent critique of prevailing narratives of Latin America as undemocratic, while reimagining the way we think about democracy itself." — B. A. Lucero, Choice

"[Makers of Democracy] is [a] must-read book for those who want to understand how power relations were configured in the third quarter of the 20th century in Colombia. It makes us question something that is sacred to most of us: democracy. After its thorough historization, [this book] exposes the contradictions of democracy…  it finishes with a rather dark and challenging vision of what democracy means." (Translated from Spanish) — Catalina Muñoz Rojas, Historia Critica

"This provocative book demands that we rethink not only researchers’ portrayal of the middle classes in Latin America but also that we question the conflation of middle-class societies and democracy globally." — Micah Right, Social Movement Studies

"On the one hand, this books rescues from historical oblivion not only the existence of the middle classes but also their importance. It discusses the middle classes and their connection —for better or for worse— with democracy and development… On the other, it highlights the active role in which the middle classes…radicalized themselves against the [developmentalist] imperatives coming from a Global capitalist north. In this way, we find a new reading of the 'invention of development' … during the 1960s and 1970s. At the core of this historiographical originality, [this book] also proposes a methodological approach that highlights the discourses and practices that shaped certain men and women and their efforts to be part of a middle class in Bogotá. We hope this book will soon be translated into Spanish, so that more readers can get familiarized with these transnational stories, uncommon methodological approaches in [Colombian] historiography." (Translated from Spanish)
  — Mauricio Archila Neira, Anuario Colombiano de Historia Social y de la Cultura

"Against perspectives that present an 'objective' and trans-historical image of the middle classes and their (usually positive) relation with democracy, in this insightful volume López-Pedreros illustrates the process by which transnational and domestic actors 'built' the values and characteristics of a middle class in 1960s Colombia." — Eduardo Dargent, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“In Makers of Democracy, A. Ricardo López-Pedreros offers a multidimensional approach to the disputed processes through which particular social actors came to represent the middle classes and the promises of democracy…. This book is a key contribution to the contemporary history of the middle classes, democracy, and processes of political polarization.” — Ingrid Bolivar, Hispanic American Historical Review

“This is a brilliant and profoundly insightful book. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the relationships between class, gender, and politics in Latin America.”
  — Jeremy Rayner, American Historical Review

“Few authors manage to tie the inner life of experience to the broader frame of ideas and political economy as skillfully as A. Ricardo López-Pedreros does here. Clearly structured and carefully argued, Makers of Democracy is a master class in how to use one national history to think through transnational theoretical debates and social processes. This bold and impressive book is a landmark work on democracy and the middle class worldwide and an important recasting of Colombian history.” — Mark A. Healey, author of The Ruins of the New Argentina: Peronism and the Remaking of San Juan after the 1944 Earthquake

“In this fascinating and stimulating work A. Ricardo López-Pedreros deconstructs the oft-assumed direct connection between the rise of the middle class and democracy through a rich study of the formation of the new Colombian middle class. Makers of Democracy makes a major contribution to debates about the role of the middle classes and Latin American conceptualizations of democracy and how, through the language of class, gender, and democracy, claims of legitimacy to rule are made.” — Catherine LeGrand, author of Frontier Expansion and Peasant Protest in Colombia, 1850–1936


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

A. Ricardo López-Pedreros is Associate Professor of History at Western Washington University and coeditor of The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Abbreviations  ix
Acknowledgments  xiii
Introduction. "There Is No Other Class in Democracy"  1
Part I. Conscripts of Democracy: The Alliance for Progress, Development, and the (Re)Formation of a Gendered Middle Class, 1958–1965
1. A Bastard Middle Class  21
2. An Irresistible Democracy  42
3. The Productive Wealth of This Country  62
4. Beyond Capital and Labor  86
Part II. Contested Democracies: Classed Subjectivities, Social Movements, and Gendered Petit Bourgeois Radicalization, 1960s–1970s
5. In the Middle of the Mess  109
6. A Revolution for a Democratic Middle-Class Society  139
7. A Real Revolution, a Real Democracy  172
8. Democracy: The Most Important Gift to the World  225
Epilogue. A Class that Does (Not) Matter: Democracy beyond Democracy  255
Appendix  263
Notes  271
Bibliography  303
Index  333
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Recipient of an Honorable Mention by the Fundación Alejandro Angel Escobar (Colombia)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0285-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0177-5
Publicity material