Cultural Agents Reloaded: The Legacy of Antanas Mockus systematically reflects on the practices and legacy of one exceptional cultural agent, Antanas Mockus, twice Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia. His accomplishments bear witness to the potential of creative, symbolic practices as a trigger for social change. His failures, in turn, demonstrate what happens when cultural agency and epistemic legitimacy take divergent paths. Mockus’s example motivates us to further revise and sharpen our understanding of what cultural agency is in the present day by bringing into focus some of the most formidable challenges that public humanities face when they travel South and struggle to become genuinely global.
Antanas Mockus, academic, mathematician, and philosopher, twice elected as mayor of Bogotá without funds or a party, belongs to no stereotype of right or left or populist. His administrations’ campaigns of Cultura Ciudadana (Civic Culture) surprised and often delighted through their use of symbolism, theater, and sheer playfulness. At the same time they were based on thorough theoretical thinking and, as were all aspects of his administrations, on scrupulous execution and profound ethical convictions. Carlo Tognato has assembled here a varied and consistently stimulating collection of assessments and interpretations, together with interviews with a number of Mockus’s collaborators, including an indispensable contribution by the former mayor himself. Often the chapters depart as interestingly from conventional political analysis as Mockus’s methods departed from conventional politics. They are accompanied by an extended photographic essay, which is an essential and welcome novelty. Opinions differ about how much was dependent on Antanas Mockus’s personality; he has the rare and perhaps untheorizable gift of making hard lives a little bit happier. But this excellent book is itself evidence of continuing interest in this remarkable philosopher and politician.
To transform a social equilibrium requires changing institutions, rules, social norms, expectations, beliefs, and interests. It’s hard to do, but it happened in Bogotá in the 1990s. This book deconstructs how it was precipitated and evolved under the innovative strategies of Antanas Mockus. A remarkable experience with profound lessons for social science.
- 646 pages
- 6-3/4 x 9-3/4 inches
- Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University
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