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Empire, Reform, and Corruption : : José de Gálvez and Political Culture in the Spanish World, 1765-1787

  • Author(s): Zepeda Cortés, María Bárbara
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation analyzes state modernization and political culture in the eighteenth-century Spanish World. The central paradox unpacked by this study is how positive reform of the Spanish Empire was achieved by statesman José de Gálvez (1720-1787) employing exactly the sort of nepotism and patronage with was considered damaging to the old regime. Gálvez was the central architect of the so- called Bourbon Reforms, a set of measures addressed at raising colonial revenue to enhance Spain's position in the concert of Europe through the renewal of the Empire's economy, administration, defense, and general levels of social wellbeing. This was the first (and probably the most ambitious) scheme of large-scale institutional modernization led by an authoritarian state in the history of Spanish America. My research proposes that structural transformations create a moment of vulnerability for state institutions, but also one of political risk for reformers themselves. This is a case study of how traditional practices of political culture--the personal acquisition of wealth by public officials, certainly, and arguably "corruption," but also the mobilization of patronage networks and nepotism--can be adapted to transitional political moments, for good or ill. Overall, this dissertation provides significant explanations to long- asked scholarly questions about the ways in which the legacy of colonialism determined (or not) certain practices of governance in independent Latin America and modern Spain, where corruption continues to be a pervasive problem in public life

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