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On the Conditions of the Possibility for Transcending the Capitalist Nation State in Chiapas, Mexico: A Karatanian Analysis

Presenters: Rebekah Kartal (International Relations & Diplomacy and Spanish)
Advisor: Professor Joel Wainwright (Geography)


This research brings the thought of philospher Kojin Karatani to bear on a social movement in southern Mexico.  Karatani analyzes the modern social formation as the result of three modes of exchange – reciprocity of gift and return, plunder and redistribution, and commodity exchange – which combine to form the capitalist nation state.  Through the examination of Kant's moral imperative, Karatani contends that so long as we live within the confines of the capitalist nation state, we will treat others merely as a means to an end.  Yet as Karatani illustrates, Kant's "kingdom of ends" could only be achieved through the transcendence of the capitalist nation state – a condition which seems impossible.  My thesis argues that the Zapatistas of Chiapas provide a living political illustration of the struggle to transcend the capitalist nation state.  Zapatismo challenges the continued exploitation and inequality that the capitalist nation state engenders throught the creation of autonomous regions (called caracoles).  By building communal organization, the caracoles have developed autonomous education, health, and justice programs.  The Zapatista movement calls on civil society to join them in creating a world of many worlds.  Through its faith in the transcendence of the capitalist nation state the EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) nourishes a different type of social formation, which Karatani calls association.