Aristocratic Rebellion: Ruben Darío and the Creation of Artistic Freedom in the World-System

Roberto José Ortiz

Abstract


The late 19th struggle for artistic freedom in the capitalist world-system put the artist in a contradictory position. This contradiction is particularly relevant for writers of the periphery. Freedom or autonomy to pursue purely intellectual projects required a certain aristocratic defense of the value of art. At the same time, however, artists and intellectuals did confront structural subordination: they belonged, as Pierre Bourdieu explained, to the dominated fractions of the dominant class, subordinated both to the state and the bourgeoisie. The life of Nicaraguan Ruben Darío (1867–1916), probably the most well-known poet in Latin American history, provides a paradigmatic instance of this dilemma. Moreover, it sheds light into a dilemma particular to the peripheral intellectual. Peripheral writers, in the 19th century and still today, are subject to world-systemic hierarchies, even cultural ones. This double subordination is clear in the case of Ruben Darío. He was in a subordinated position not only vis-à-vis the national state and the bourgeoisie. Darío was also in a subordinated position, even if symbolic, in relation to those same intellectuals that Bourdieu celebrated as creators of the autonomy of culture in France. One can account for this complex of hierarchies only through a 'world-systems biography' approach. World-systems biographies clearly examine the dialectic of personal, national and global levels of social life. Moreover, it can uncover the core-periphery dialectic in the realm of artistic production. Thus, this world-systems biography approach is shown to be a useful framework through a brief analysis of Darío's life and work.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2015.6

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