Orlando Fals-Borda or The Ethics of Subversion: Towards a Critique of Ideology of Political Violence in Colombia, 1948–1974

  • Juan Diaz

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis is an inter-disciplinary project incorporating history, philosophy, sociology, theology and political analysis. It looks at highly significant, yet little researched, aspects of the intellectual history of Colombian sociologist and political leader Orlando Fals-Borda, 1925–2008.

    The thesis reconstructs the early period of Fals-Borda’s career, 1948–1974, and reveals first-hand information about his original thinking gathered from his works, published and unpublished, and vast correspondence (much previously unknown) scattered in five different archives in Colombia, the USA and Switzerland. It establishes the foundations for comprehending one of the central themes of Fals-Borda’s intellectual and political career: his critique of ideology of political violence in Colombia.

    A basic tenet of this research is that intellectual history, rather than the objective presentation of somebody’s intellectual work within his/her historical context, implies a philosophical understanding of his/her main concerns. Thus, this interplay between intellectual history and critique makes this research far more than a historiography of Fals-Borda’s ideas since it explores his original insight into the complexities of the long-running violence in Colombia.

    The framework which supports this interplay between intellectual history and critique is Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of the Violence’ and ‘Theses on Philosophy of History’. Through the lens of Benjamin’s philosophy about violence and history, this thesis examines Fals-Borda’s ethics of subversion in a new light.
    Another central tenet of this research is that understanding the past is crucial
    for understanding the present, and vice versa. Thus, it highlights the importance of the ethical-theological, historical and epistemological bases leading to Fals-Borda’s development of Participatory Action Research (PAR). This approach is especially relevant to the current political situation and debate on democratic participation and socio-economic and human rights in Colombia, in the light of peace negotiations between the government, guerrilla groups and civil society.
    Date of Award8 Mar 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorMichael Edwards (Supervisor) & Carrie Hamilton (Supervisor)


    • Orland Fals-Borda, Political violence, Colombia, Critique, Intellectual History

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